I'm in San Francisco this week making the rounds and, as luck would have it (this was not part of our original plan), Bebo.com was running a launch event while we happened to be here in the city. The event took place at the Metreon right in the heart of the city. So, this morning, I showed up about a half an hour early looking to get the lowdown on what Bebo was announcing from the London-based company's CEO Michael Birch.
As you can see in the attached video, the big news is that Bebo (which Birch claims to be the 3rd largest social network in the world behind MySpace and FaceBook, and first in London, Ireland, and New Zealand) has opened up its network to third party application developers (like what FaceBook has) through a series of APIs. Perhaps even more interesting is how Bebo has chosen to make it so that any application that's written to run on the FaceBook platform is seamlessly portable to the Bebo platform without any recoding.
In the video, Birch talks about the typical painpoint of developers who sometimes must recode their apps to run in different platforms and how this decision will ease the burden of developers building social applications (a good example of this burden can be found in the way that Web pages are often recoded to support different browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari).
The result of this cross-social platform portability can be seen in some of the 40 or so developers that were present at the launch whose applications are already showing up in the Bebo application directory. For example, two gaming companies -- Bunchball.com and Webs.com (publisher of The Social Gaming Network) -- both of which had FaceBook applications, now offer their applications on Bebo in such a way that a user in Bebo can invite any friends they want to a game, regardless of whether those friends are their friends in Bebo or FaceBook. If a Bebo user invites one of their friends listed on their FaceBook account to a game, that invitee can participate in the game without leaving their FaceBook context (and vice versa).
This sort of interoperability of friendship and personal information across social networks is also the province of the OpenSocial framework (an open source framework announced by Google on November 1, 2007). Today, neither Bebo nor FaceBook support OpenSocial. But, as you can see in the video, Birch says that Bebo will be coming out with support for OpenSocial in 2008.
Also in the video, NBC Universal vice president of Digital Product Strategy and Development Sab Kanaujia demos how NBC (one of Bebo's launch partners) is taking advantage of Bebo's programmability with an application that essentially immerses Bebo users and their friends into the hit TV show The Office.
Check out the video and feel free to comment below on what Birch and Kanaujia had to say.