hi5 Introduces Facebook API to Speed Up Facebook Application Ports

San Francisco’s hi5, a social network that is increasingly focused on games, has announced a new set of Facebook compatible APIs which would allow very easy porting of an application developed for Facebook. This is in addition to their current OpenSocial implementation, meaning that games developed for either API will be easily portable to the hi5 system, which is emphasizing games with their upcoming games portal.

We’ve seen a lot of game activity out of hi5 recently, with their acquisition of Big Six games, a company that provides valuable technology to better facilitate virtual currency payments, specifically focusing on increased conversion rates and fraud detection.

hi5 recently announced that at GDC 2010, they will announce a new game developer program which gives developers special benefits for games that are created within hi5, giving them better promotion across the site, revenue sharing when using the hi5 coins currency and featured spots on the hi5 games portal. One big question here is that the game developer program attempts to reward game developers that develop exclusively for hi5, so it’s not certain whether games that are ported from Facebook will benefit from these new developer benefits.

hi5’s president and CTO, Alex St. John, explained that “As a leading game distribution platform, it’s our job to make the process of getting games live on hi5 as easy and seamless as possible for our partners. Now, developers who have designed and developed a social game for Facebook can easily get their game up and running on hi5 with minimal development effort.” Certainly, bringing new games to the 60 million global monthly active users will be a great way to ensure that current users of the site don’t need to join Facebook to play some of their favorite games, but the big question is whether it will be enough. We looked at that specific question recently, and noticed that the traffic for sites like hi5, Bebo and others were slowly decreasing over time. This is certainly a strategy to stem that decrease.

hi5 was definitely one of the first movers on working to integrate closely with Facebook, and in fact released an API that was supposed to allow this easy portability back in 2007 and was extremely successful with its early application development platform, one of the first to launch after Facebook. One of the main attractions they have for developers is that they don’t limit their viral invitations within their social channel, calling it a “super-charged” channel which allows applications to effectively blast messages out to a players’ friends. This works well within a network that is focused on games, and if their vision of turning hi5 into a games-dedicated network comes true, it could be effective for people that just login to find new games, play them, and leave.