Facebook extends social network with Open Graph

Web developers will be able to access and share more information with the social-networking site with the launch of new tools
Written by Martin Gaston, Contributor

Facebook has introduced three developer tools in an effort to see its social-networking features become further integrated into other websites.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the Facebook Platform tools — Open Graph protocol, social plug-ins and Graph application programming interface (API) — during a keynote speech on Wednesday at the F8 conference in San Francisco. 

In the keynote and in a blog posted the same day, Zuckerberg said the new tools will help fulfill the company's vision of the "social graph", which allows people to share the connections they make on any website with their friends on Facebook. For example, if a user 'likes' a movie on film site IMDB.com, that can be displayed on the user's Facebook page, he said.

"We are making it so all websites can work together to build a more comprehensive map of connections and create better, more social experiences for everyone," wrote Zuckerberg on his blog.

He said that Facebook hopes the new tools will encourage publishers, brands and media businesses to use the products to directly incorporate their companies into social media.

The Open Graph protocol lets developers turn a website's pages into objects that can be added to Facebook profile. The social plug-ins bring Facebook's features to a website. If a website chooses to integrate a 'like' button into its site, for example, any visiting Facebook user will be able to both approve the page and see which of their friends has recommended the content without leaving the site.

The Graph API aims to simplify the way developers work with the Facebook platform. It is an evolution of the Facebook Connect platform announced two years ago, a single sign-on initiative that competed with services such as OpenID, OAuth and OpenSocial. Facebook Connect is now being phased out.

"[The Graph API makes] it much easier to integrate with Facebook by using a simplified, standards-based method for authentication and authorisation.We've adopted OAuth 2.0, a standard we've co-authored with the open community, including representatives from Google, Twitter, Yahoo and others," Bret Taylor, head of Facebook Platform, wrote in a blog post.

Facebook is currently working with three pre-selected partners with these tools: Microsoft's Docs.com, which went live during Zuckerberg's keynote, reviews site Yelp and music site Pandora. Many of Facebook's 75 partners are now running Open Graph-enabled websites, according to Taylor's blog post. 

Zuckerberg reiterated Facebook's web presence in his keynote, saying the website has over 400 million users, 100 million of which regularly use Facebook Connect.

Facebook also announced it is eliminating the 24-hour cache on data stored on its servers and consolidating its permissions into one dialog window.

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