Oz devs invited to exclusive Facebook club

Facebook is aiming to tap into the local expertise of Australian developers with a consultant program, by picking out a panel of candidates to recommend to businesses who want to create apps for the social network.

Facebook is aiming to tap into the local expertise of Australian developers with a consultant program, by picking out a panel of candidates to recommend to businesses who want to create apps for the social network.

(Facebook business image by Sean MacEntee, CC2.0)

Speaking with ZDNet Australia, Facebook's head of platform partnerships for Asia Pacific/Japan, Alexander Kleinberg, said that businesses that weren't necessarily in the IT industry were approaching Facebook wanting to jump on the social media bandwagon.

"They will say 'We know we want to do this, [but] we don't have a good idea on how to do it' or 'We have ideas, but we're not sure how to build them ... Can you do it for us?'"

Facebook, however, doesn't actually create the apps that run on its platform and doesn't plan to begin doing so in the future. Instead, its focus is on building that platform and letting others create the apps for it.

"We actually feel that we have a certain expertise and others have other expertise, and it would be great if we can marry that as much as possible."

To do so, it has toyed with setting up a panel of developers it can trust to take care of its customers — what it has termed its Preferred Developer Consultant Program.

At the moment, the program has less than 100 participants, all located in the US and Europe, and while Facebook is reaching out to Australia in the most recent submissions round, it wanted to keep the program exclusive to a select few.

"This is a very small program — a handful in each region around the world. It's not like we're looking for dozens in Australia. I'm looking for a few key people that are willing to put the work in to be part of the program," Kleinberg said.

"There's a strong sense of creative community here. We've seen some really interesting start-ups already," he said.

While the program is open to anyone from the largest enterprise to the single developer operating out of home, Kleinberg said that start-ups tended to "get it" more often than not.

"We obviously work with very big companies and big brands, but the commitment extends all the way across to the very small start-ups that are looking to build. Those guys tend to get social and understand how to innovate on Facebook very quickly and often times those are the most fulfilling conversations we have because we think the work that they do is very innovative and contributes a lot to the product that we offer to users."

There's no financial incentive for participants, but in the case of start-ups, sometimes the connections are what matter more. OrionVM is an example of this, which, while securing the backing of two Angel Investors recently, said the networking opportunities were the real deal clincher. Facebook seems to have recognised this, placing more emphasis on support.

"We know there is an enormous amount of talent and innovation happening here and it's my objective to make sure that Facebook supports that good growth of that ecosystem as much as possible."

"We can direct high-quality clients their way. [Developers are] always looking for the next project."

Kleinberg also said support extended to both the technical and business side of working with Facebook.

"When they're in this program, they're heavily supported on our part. They develop close person-to-person working relationships with our technical support teams. They get a very high level of personalised service and support from our side and we've heard from them that that's a very big benefit of being part of this program."

While it's not Kleinberg's immediate area of expertise, he also touched on matters of privacy as a reminder that the company is constantly thinking about it.

"On the platform side, privacy is just as much of a concern as it is through the rest of the site when you're allowing apps and third-party developers to access your data. We've actually completely revamped the permissions dialogs, and what not, to make them much more straightforward to users, make it very clear to users when they are first asked to consent to the app access.

"How is it being used, what will it look like on your page, what type of data will it access and why does it need access to that data — we've tried to simplify these things and make it much more straightforward to people so that they are never surprised by this type of access to their information."

But Kleinberg indicated that whatever measures the company took, it couldn't possibly satisfy everyone's needs.

"I don't think anyone will ever get perfectly correct all the time for every user — I'm not sure that's a target that anyone can reach — but it's something we're working on all the time and it's something we spend an enormous amount of time focused on."