Facebook reaches out to Asean developers

Social networking giant brings F8 conference to Singapore for first time to "be closer" to Southeast Asian developers and explain platform's latest features, execs say.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Southeast Asia was Facebook's focus Friday as it brought its F8 developer conference to the region, via the city-state, for the first time to interact with developers and further reiterate the new features announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month.

Ethan Beard, director of platform partnerships at Facebook, who is based at the company's Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters, said the Singapore leg of its F8 developer conference came after Seoul, South Korea earlier this week, and will be followed by Tokyo, Japan. Turkey's Istanbul, Britain's London and Germany's Berlin are the other three cities for the company's first overseas developer conference tour.

The executive, speaking at F8 Singapore on Friday, highlighted Singapore as a destination to reach out particularly to Southeast Asia-based developers such as those in Indonesia and Malaysia, while the Korea and Japan legs primarily focused on the other Asian developer communities.

Facebook's mission is, ultimately, not just to build an online networking site but to be the "technology for people to connect and share". And a platform is only as successful as the partners, who include developers, building it, he explained.

Acknowledging that the current landscape is competitive, with several alternatives such as Google+ jostling for consumers' and developers' favor, Beard said this is why the company is upping its outreach efforts. It aims to make sure everything--from the technology and developer experience to monetization and returns on investment (ROI)--appeals to app makers, he added.

"So when they wake up in the morning, they would say they want to [write apps for Facebook]."

He added that Facebook's massive user base is already a key incentive for developers, so the company works to ensure the experience on its platform is "great" to retain users.

Another executive at the event, Alexander Kleinberg, pointed out that in Singapore, there is an increase in the quality and quantity of apps and app developers, which is "gratifying" to see.

Kleinberg , head of platform partnerships for Asia-Pacific and Japan, who's based in the Singapore office, declined to say which Asian market has the most robust developer community. Instead, he said there are good developers everywhere and it is "our job to be closer to them".

Improving consumer insight
Beard noted that the other reason for F8 traveling out of the United States was to reach out and demonstrate to developers the new features introduced in September, such as Timeline, Ticker and Open Graph.

The updated Open Graph API (application programming interface) will enable developers to drive user discovery, traffic and distribution of their apps through the platform's various channels such as Ticker and News Feed, Beard explained.

Elaborating, he said Open Graph is based on the concept of "actions and objects", which expands the API's reach beyond allowing users to "Like" someone's activity to a range of verbs and nouns.

For instance, a developer using the API could write a recipe or cooking app that plugs into Facebook's Timeline function. So when a user posts an update on the app after baking a batch of cookies, the person's Timeline wall would also display "(User's name) baked these cookies", he said.

The Internet giant is also focusing on providing APIs and other tools that are easily accessible, understandable and usable to developers. These include making their apps' performance measurable and how users respond to them via analytic tools such as Facebook Insights, he said.

Doug Purdy, director of developer relations at Facebook and also based in Palo Alto, said such tools are vital. "Developers care about [running an] effective business with ease," he reiterated.

Asked if such overseas F8 conferences would become annual events, Purdy, who attended the event, said the company had not thought that far ahead.

"Now it's about carrying the momentum, and any outreach depends on the products and when the products get done," he said, adding that even the San Francisco F8 conference is not a strictly annual event.

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