Hi5 Announces Support for Facebook Platform APIs, Targeting Social Game Developers

In a clear bid for Facebook’s momentum as a social gaming platform, Hi5 is expanding its developer platform beyond OpenSocial, implementing a substantial portion of the Facebook Platform APIs on Hi5. This will allow companies with Facebook apps — especially social gaming companies who have figured out how to get a lot of users — to more easily port their applications without having to rewrite much code.

Friendster and Bebo have supported parts of the Facebook Platform API for years, but they have not always maintained support for changing Facebook Platform API specs, which often decreases the ultimate efficiency gains for developers. In addition they have not been as focused on building social games, as Hi5 has been for the past year, rolling out its virtual currency, flash games, avatars, chat, a redesign, and more. From the company on today’s news:

hi5’s Facebook compatible interfaces, which are currently in use by select partners, support the functionality needed by most social media games to add social elements to their applications, including user authentication, profile pictures, friends, updates and photos. The new APIs also support the JavaScript interfaces necessary to enable user actions such as friend invitations.

We’re still waiting on details from Hi5 on the exact API documentation. Hi5 says it is “starting with the REST-based server-side APIs, as well as several JavaScript APIs.”

Attracting established social gaming developers could make Hi5 more popular with users. Facebook’s many changes — like the removal of notifications that allowed for many apps’ viral growth — have gotten developers increasingly eying other platforms. But while Facebook has grown to more than 400 million monthly active users, most in the last year, Hi5 has stayed level at what it says is 50 million total users.

Hi5 is continuing to make the right moves given its position, specializing in gaming while Facebook stays focused on being an all-purpose social service. It’s hire of Alex St. John, a gaming pioneer, and the recent mostly-talent purchase of veteran game and virtual goods developers at Big Six show its focus on continuing to build in gaming.

Now, the company needs to tie all of its pieces together in a way that resonates with users, like Facebook’s focus on real-world identity and its news feed have. Hi5 is in a fascinating position, and we’re intrigued to see how it continues to mold its service and improve social gaming.

The company will be providing more details on the platform later this month, although St. John tells VentureBeat that he wants companies with new games, hoping to get them launching those games on both sites.

Hi5 says it has developer partners lined up. It isn’t naming them yet aside from Detonator Games, a new company recently started by former Sony Online Entertainment employees; Hi5 has previously had deals with other companies, including RockYou and Playdom.

Hi5 promises more news to come: “This effort is the first of many new technologies we will be announcing over the coming months to make hi5 the leading marketplace for great social media games.”