Facebook to Open Source the Platform? (Updated)

Facebook is likely to open-source the Facebook Platform APIs, FBML, FQL, and Javascript libraries soon, Techcrunch speculates this morning. Given the current “social platform wars” with Google, open sourcing Facebook Platform standards would create an alternative platform to OpenSocial for social websites to integrate rich third party applications.

Bebo has already licensed the Facebook Platform architecture for its own platform, and a flood of Facebook applications have been published on the Bebo platform since they run almost completely out of the box. By allowing anyone to adopt the Facebook Platform architecture, Facebook would hope to create greater entrenchment in the developer community on building on the Facebook architecture.

For containers, implementing the Facebook Platform standards is no easy task. In addition to supporting all the Facebook Platform features, you’ll have to maintain your platform over time to keep it in sync with Facebook’s standards. However, by adopting the Facebook Platform, you’ll be able to pitch developers of the over 25,000 currently published Facebook applications that they can reach your users with little to no further work.

For developers, the increased standardization of social containers will always be a good thing. However, as developers have learned with OpenSocial, just because different containers adopt the same architecture doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to port between containers. Different containers have different restrictions and extensions, so some changes will always need to be made.

2:00pm Update: A Facebook spokesperson has confirmed the company’s plans, stressing intended benefits for developers:

“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.”

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