Facebook Opens Status API, Enabling a New Class of “Real-Time” Facebook Applications

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Tonight, Facebook announced the release of several new Facebook Platform APIs, all of which enable application developers to access and share more real-time information about their users and their friends.

The New Status API Will Enable a New Class of Facebook Apps

The most powerful new API Facebook released tonight is status.get, which allows app developers to access the current and most recent status updates for the active app user “or their friends that are currently visible to the active user.” While Facebook apps have been able to set Facebook users’ status updates for a long time, this is the first time developers will be able to access current and recent updates for app users and their friends.

The availability of these APIs means a new class of real-time communication tools is likely to be built on the Facebook Platform.

Close analogies for many of the tools that might work very well in the Facebook ecosystem already exist around the Twitter API. The spectrum is very powerful and broad, but many focus on the “real time” nature of status update-style communication. For example:

There are literally hundreds of tools built around the Twitter API, and many of them should work well in the Facebook ecosystem – either on the Facebook Platform proper or on third party websites through Facebook Connect.

Status Updates a High Priority to Facebook

Opening the status.get API reflects the priority Facebook is increasingly placing on Status Updates. When the Facebook Redesign went live last year, the status update prompt appeared at the top of the Facebook home page for the first time. And last week, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will be adding more granular privacy controls around status updates soon.

We expect that further updates will come to status updates as the application ecosystem develops around this new functionality. Tools and conventions that have become popular in the Twitter ecosystem may offer glimpses into future iterations of Facebook’s own status updates tool.

Facebook Competing Increasingly Directly with Twitter

Facebook’s latest move brings it into increasingly direct competition with Twitter to become the dominant real-time social communication platform on the web. While some of the fundamental communication dynamics between the two services differ – for example, Twitter is based on a unidirectional “follower” model while Facebook is based on a bidirectional “friend” model – Facebook has already built relatively advanced feedback loops into its News Feed algorithms that intelligently optimize what information flows to whom and when, arguably somewhat resembling something closer to an intelligent “follower” model in the end.

Facebook reportedly tried to acquire Twitter for $500 million in Facebook stock in November (at what valuation exactly is unclear), but the companies were not able to come to terms. A few weeks prior to those rumors, Zuckerberg expressed his high view of Twitter when he said at the Web 2.0 conference that he was “really impressed by what they’ve done” and that Twitter has a “very elegant model.” Zuckerberg has also stated on several occasions that a major trend the company is seeing is that instead of writing a few long blog posts, more people are posting frequent status updates, broadcasting everything from their activity to their emotions.

What This Means for Marketers

Obviously, brands and marketers have a lot at stake on what is being said in the real-time web. Twitter has become an increasingly valuable tool for brand managers to understand the impact and buzz around company news and marketing efforts in other channels like TV. (See a great example here.) Pretty much every PR firm is using Twitter monitoring tools these days (and many have created their own).

Many of the same conditions that make Twitter a powerful platform for marketers also exist on Facebook. However, while most Twitter accounts are public, marketers will need to reach Facebook users through applications in order to gain access to their status updates. I’m sure we’ll see some creative attempts by aggressive marketers to get access to as many Facebook users as possible in the coming months.

New Videos, Links, and Notes APIs

Finally, in addition to the new status update API, Facebook also tonight launched new APIs allowing apps to:

  1. Access all of a user’s posted links and notes
  2. Upload new videos, links, and notes through the application

These new sharing features supplement existing APIs which allow apps to upload photos and post status updates through applications. Now, video, link, and note sharing will also be possible. We expect to see many applications take advantage of these new features as well.

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