Facebook appears to have taken another small but important step toward becoming the operating system for any application or service that wants to tap into the social graph. Specifically, according to All Facebook, it has tweaked its system to allow App developers to embed apps in third-party web sites and have greater access the Facebook member and relationship information.
Nick O’Neill from All Facebook:
Rather than building your applications strictly within Facebook you can now extend the full functionality of the platform to your own website and leverage Facebook as the tool for managing members and their relationships…
Want to build your own social gaming platform that resides on your own website but leverages the power of users’ Facebook relationships? Now you can! There had previously been applications that could leverage the Facebook API prior to the launch of the platform but there are some significant differences now versus before.
The first significant difference is the broader access to Facebook’s core features that the platform provides. The second difference is that Facebook has now implemented the ability to leverage cookies to access a user’s data even when they are not at your application.
Developers disagree about how meaningful Facebook’s latest tweak is, but the overall strategy is brilliant. The big drawback of Facebook for those who weren’t born and raised on it is the need to visit the site to interact with friends, apps, etc. (the “walled garden” effect). This requirement makes Facebook a non-starter–or at least annoying–for those reared on standard email, IM, and web-based apps. It also leaves Facebook exposed to competition from an “open” social graph platform, such as Google’s Open Social.
For obvious reasons, Facebook wants to resist going completely “open” and allowing members to export their information and relationships at will, as Facebook might lose its control over its core asset (the billions of relationships among its millions of members, a.k.a., the social graph). This move seems another smart step toward a hybrid strategy: Allow app makers (and Facebook) to extend social-graph functionality to the web, gather more app users, and recruit more members–but retain full control over the social graph itself.
By extending to the web, Facebook will encourage even more third-party developers to build applications on top of its platform and more easily fend off Open Social and any other competing social graph platform. Beacon may have gotten off to a rough start, but an operating system based on a world’s-worth of relationships could eventually become far more valuable than one that simply operates personal computers. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t frequently compared to Bill Gates for nothing.
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