Facebook engineers reveal how Parse fits into Platform, B2B strategies

Summary:Facebook engineers describe how the social network can serve as a "horizontal tier" that connects its global user base with third-party applications.


MENLO PARK, CALIF. -- The Facebook Platform celebrates its six year anniversary on Friday, and engineers for the world's largest social network offered a behind-the-scenes look at where the infrastructure is going next.

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The update, held at Facebook's Silicon Valley headquarters, also shed light about the company's evolving B2B strategy, which got a boost with the recent acquisition of Parse.

To recall, Facebook bought Parse , a startup with a cloud-based platform of scalable cross-platform services and tools for developers, back in April.

Specifically, Parse came with tools designed for development on iOS and Android devices.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Facebook reps asserted via email at the time that "this is an acquisition – not a talent deal."

"Facebook can become this horizontal tier that brings people to those third-party applications," Purdy remarked.

For reference, the Facebook Platform was built to enable third-party developers to integrate their apps with the Social Graph, according to Doug Purdy, director of product management at the social network.

Looking toward the immediate future through at least 2014, Purdy outlined that Facebook's Platform strategy will be held up by the following four pillars: Identity (social plugins, logins, etc.), Open Graph (Timeline, News Feed, Graph Search), Ads, and App Services.

"Facebook can become this horizontal tier that brings people to those third-party applications," Purdy remarked.

The last pillar, Application Services, is where Parse comes in.

Ilya Sukhar, co-founder and former CEO of Parse, acknowledged that developing for mobile is "really hard" given the sheer amount of devices, mobile operating systems, apps, use cases, and everything else possibly related to the form factor.

Prior to the acquisition, Sukhar explained that his startup's biggest competition came from companies choosing to build apps in-house.

Sukhar asserted that Parse's SDK is designed to make things "dramatically easier" for independent third-party developers and small businesses, backing that up by citing that more than 200 million devices have installed apps built using the Parse SDK.

With Parse onboard, Facebook will be able build up its own developer ecosystem with more tools to dish out to third-party developers (and, by extension, advertisers).

Yet, Sukhar specified that Parse will actually continue to operate independently -- to some extent at least.

For instance, even though Parse already offers the option for integrating the native Facebook Login dialog, Sukhar replied that Parse won't require developers to integrate Facebook services in the future. (For example, developers could still use Twitter for login services instead of Facebook.)

Furthermore, Parse's back-end infrastructure is based on Amazon Web Services. Even though Facebook is building its own datacenters around the world ( most recently Iowa ), Sukhar explained it will be "business as usual," and that there aren't plans to move.

Going back to the original core focus on iOS and Android developers, Sukhar also admitted that "a majority" of the apps built with Parse tools are not built for Facebook.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Data Management, Developer


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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