Michael Arrington at TechCrunch first broke news about Facebook turning into an open source platform, and the possibility that this could be happening within the next few days. Facebook confirmed this soon after.
The modified Facebook platform is called ‘Facebook Connect’. Once the platform is launched, all social networks will become compatible with Facebook; that is to say, it will be possible to run Facebook applications on other social networks with Facebook acting as the central hub.
Putting it simply, users of Facebook Connect will be able to interlink with any partnering website, at any stage. Users will be able to carry their real identity – name, profile picture and other basic information – to all websites. Users will also be able to take their friends from Facebook to any site they wish.
Facebook promises that user information will be protected and be kept up-to-date at all times. In their own words:
“As a user moves around the open Web, their privacy settings will follow, ensuring that users’ information and privacy rules are always up-to-date. For example, if a user changes their profile picture, or removes a friend connection, this will be automatically updated in the external website.”
Reporters on ZDNet as well as TechCrunch see the move by Facebook as direct competition to and an improvement on Google’s OpenSocial. If Facebook follows the same route as OpenSocial, it will be possible for other networks to modify Facebook applications and use them on their own platforms. However, getting these applications on the official Facebook platform, would require prior sanction by Facebook.
Google, MySpace and Yahoo! have all supported OpenSocial, thus cutting off Facebook to a large extent. This did not matter to Facebook while its user volumes were sky-rcoketing. However, now that their user numbers have already started declining in the USA, they will need to take some bold steps to maintain their position among other social networks.