Why Facebook Did *Not* Release Their Platform Last Night

It’s all over the web right now that Facebook supposedly “released their platform last night”. I want to clarify the situation – Facebook did not release their platform last night! What Facebook did release, as the title of their announcement states, is a Javascript Client API library for Facebook.

First, let’s discuss what a platform is. A platform is simply this – an interface to a major website or operating system, of which Software Developers can write their own software for. Back in May, Facebook opened their platform for developers. They have also announced plans to license their platform to third party websites at one point in the future. However, after last nights release of a javascript library, I still do not have the capability to let other Facebook developers write applications, using the same architecture (think Bebo) as Facebook on my own website.

What Facebook released last night is simply a client-based API (that loads into the user’s memory) which has access to access Facebook Data for an application that already exists on Facebook’s systems. I am still tied to Facebook with this, it requires an application API key like all other APIs, and nothing has changed. In fact, the Javascript library is even more limited than the other, server-side APIs, in that I cannot upload Photos with the Javascript library like I can, say, in PHP or Perl.

What you can do is have access to an existing application on Facebook’s servers, and tie your external website to that application. This has always been the case with the Facebook API, and will continue to be in the future. iLike uses this with their iTunes application. We’re Related uses this in their registration process on the FamilyLink.com site. It’s just you can now do it in Javascript.

I was going to blog on this last night when the announcement came out, but the announcement last night does mean something significant. It means Facebook is starting to compete with OpenSocial. OpenSocial, a javascript-based library currently, gives you access to a library of friends on a single social network, only requiring static html to access that API, just like Facebook’s new API library does. What OpenSocial has that Facebook doesn’t however, is what they term the “Apache Shindig Project”. Shindig is a truly open platform, which does allow you to allow your own users to create their own apps on your site only, and even share them with other Shindig-supported websites.

I repeat – Facebook is not there yet! The announcement last night means Facebook is closer to competing with OpenSocial, but they are still just as closed as they have always been.

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