FbOpen: Facebook's Open Source Developer Platform

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 by Mistlee

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FbOpen: Facebook's Open Source Developer Platform

By Jordan McCollum

UPDATE: Facebook confirms that their developer platform will go open source:

We're working on an open-source initiative that is meant to help application developers better understand Facebook Platform and more easily build applications, whether it's by running their own test servers, building tools, or optimizing their applications. As Facebook Platform continues to mature, open-sourcing the infrastructure behind it is a natural step so developers can build richer social applications and share what they've learned with the ecosystem. Additional details will be released soon.

According to TechCrunch, the initiative will be called fbOpen.

Original story follows

Now here's a juicy rumor: everyone's favorite social networking site might be using everyone's favorite tech buzzword as early as this week. That's right: Facebook might go "open."

TechCrunch reports that Facebook plans to go open source with their developer platform:

With the new announcement, social networks won't need to go through the hassle of doing a deal with Facebook. They'll simply map their existing APIs to Facebook Platform (which isn't trivial) and go. Expect to see the four major technical pieces of Facebook Platform - FMBL (markup language), FQL (query language), FJS (Javascript library) and the Facebook API to be open sourced and made available to anyone.

What does this change? After all, Google's Open Social initiative has already created (or was supposed to create) an "industry standard" of APIs for social networking, and Facebook declined to sign on.

However, the implications of going "open source" change the impact of Facebook's platform. While OpenSocial's APIs are designed to be widely usable (ie generic), Facebook's markup language, query langauge and JS library enhance the offering here.

OpenSocial is has some open source code, but their FAQ doesn't indicate that they are currently, fully open source:

Will you be open sourcing OpenSocial? Under what license?
Currently, the sample code is released under the Apache 2.0 license. Additionally, we have Creative Commons licensed all of the OpenSocial documentation, so you are welcome to reuse and remix as appropriate. In the future, we are planning to open-source the components that are required to run OpenSocial on your own website.

It would appear that an open source platform from Facebook would already include all of the slated improvements to OpenSocial.

Some have expressed concern over whether the Facebook platform language can apply to more than just Facebook. Oh, probably-just ask Bebo, who's licensed the platform for its own use since December (a month after joining Open Social).

The timing of this potential development, two weeks after the Facebook/Google fall out over Friend Connect and Google Connect, makes it seem as though this decision has either been coming for a while or Facebook's not about to take Google lying down-or both.

Aside from the fact that these rumors are currently unconfirmed, another caveat for this news, as Caroline McCarthy points out, is what the sources meant by "open source." "Open" is a favorite tech buzzword these days, but we'll have to see whether this will include such extensions as Facebook Connect and full, free access to source code.


About the Author:
Jordan McCollum is a staff writer for the popular marketing blog Marketing Pilgrim. She has worked in search engine optimization with clients including 3M, Little Giant Ladders and ADP. After graduating from Brigham Young University, Jordan joined the SEO copywriting team at the Internet marketing firm 10x Marketing. After 10x closed its doors in December 2006, Jordan became a freelance writer and Internet marketing consultant specializing in SEO. She also has extensive experience with web analytics, conversion rate enhancement and e-mail marketing.
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