Facebook to open source its developer platform?

Summary:While it's not yet official, TechCrunch reports that Facebook is planning to open source its Facebook Platform, the means by which third-party developers can build applications for the social networking site.

While it's not yet official, TechCrunch reports that Facebook is planning to open source its Facebook Platform, the means by which third-party developers can build applications for the social networking site.

In a direct response to Google's 'combine and conquer strategy' with Open Social, Facebook will turn the Facebook Platform into an open source project so that any social website can become Facebook Platform compatible. This result is that application developers will be able to easily port their Facebook applications over to other social networking sites, and in turn help Facebook Platform, which comprises of FMBL (markup language), FQL (query language), FJS (Javascript library) and the Facebook API, to become a standard.

Currently sites who want to become Facebook Platform compatible are required to formally license the code from Facebook. To-date, Bebo is the only social networking site to do so.

What's in it for Facebook?

When Google launched OpenSocial with support from a range of social networking sites -- big and small -- I described it as a ‘combine and conquer strategy’:

[OpenSocial] embraces the “small pieces, loosely joined” philosophy of the web, and in doing so, should help to re-balance third-party developer efforts away from Facebook’s proprietary platform, and back towards the web as the platform.

By open sourcing Facebook Platform it would no longer be proprietary (in terms of licensing) and, like OpenSocial, would have the potential for much wider adoption amongst sites other than Facebook (becoming non-proprietary in practice). This in turn would cement support for the Facebook Platform amongst third-party developers as the return of investment for creating FB-compatible apps increases.

Also see: OpenSocial should be renamed “OpenGadgets”

A second potential benefit of going open source is that outside developers could help to improve the Facebook Platform itself. Although, any additional code or changes made by the open source community would need to be rubber stamped by Facebook before they become incorporated into the official Facebook Platform.

There is, however, a downside to going open for both Facebook and app developers. Since the code can be altered and extended, and the sites that wish to become 'Facebook Platform compatible' will differ greatly in terms of features and architecture, as with OpenSocial, the standard has the potential to become fragmented.

Inevitably, open sourcing Facebook Platform will be seen as fueling the standards war for social applications being led by two camps: Facebook and Google. Instead, one widely supported and open standard, not two, would be in the interests of the industry as a whole.

Topics: Open Source, Collaboration, Social Enterprise

About

Steve O'Hear is a London-based consultant, educator, and journalist, focussing on the Internet and all aspects of digital technology. He advises businesses and not-for-profit organisations on how to exploit the collaborative and publishing opportunities offered by the Web, and has written for numerous publications including The Guardian a... Full Bio

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.