It’s Official, Facebook Releases Their Platform, Open Source and All

Nick O’Neill blogged about it, and Facebook confirmed it officially at the Palo Alto 1 Year Anniversary Developers Garage on Thursday, but Facebook has finally released their platform under a modified version of the Mozilla Public License. The code and announcement can be found here, and includes the full API, a parser for FBML, and more. I will probably be trying to sneak in a little info about this in FBML Essentials if I can beat it to press.

What does this mean for you? Well, first of all, there is a good chance (I have not confirmed this) you’ll now see sites like Myspace and LinkedIn also join sites like Bebo in providing a Facebook-style API. It should be an easy decision for them. This also means you are not stuck porting your Apps over to OpenSocial to get them on those networks, assuming they implement this into their own architecture. Ideally, it will take very few changes to port a Facebook App over to other FbPlatform-enabled sites.

Also, if you are building your own social network, you can now cater to all the Facebook developers out there and bring in the rich API Facebook provides. OpenSocial is great, but you do have to keep in mind it is still in beta – while new, I see no “beta” put in front of this new Facebook Open Platform.

The other thing you should take into account is that because it is Open Source, you can now contribute back to the platform. If you see something in the platform that is strongly needed, you simply have to sign the Contribution Agreement they provide and if they implement your change they’ll even send you a (drum roll please) T-Shirt! (they didn’t say if the T-Shirt was free or not) In reality though, we as developers now have some responsibility to give back to Facebook – that is the essence of Open Source.

I think Facebook just played their cards for Google on this one. Their environment is still closed, but at the very least they are sharing the components that make their closed environment so the world too can get involved. Google now has much stronger pressure to get OpenSocial in order, and in a way that convinces the Facebook platform developers to use OpenSocial instead of the Facebook Open Platform. It’s a race for developers, and I’m afraid Facebook just made the choice for developers to leap to OpenSocial a lot harder.

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