Our Complete Rundown of Facebook’s Massive Platform Changes

For weeks now, we and other publications have been seeing screenshots and hearing rumors about big changes that Facebook has planned for its platform. What the company changes will fundamentally impact how applications live or die on the site. Will the company change how developers notify users about their friends’ activities in apps, for example? How will apps be affected by the ongoing evolution of Facebook’s home page news feed? We’re about to find out.

Note: Facebook’s developer materials are here.

We’re live at Facebook headquarters for a big event the company has planned, what it is calling a “roadmap” for the platform going forward. We’ll be live-blogging all of it. Or, you can watch it yourself, here.

Mark Zuckerberg has taken the stage, here are paraphrased notes. “The platform is probably the fastest-growing part of user engagement. Its is a key part of our strategy, along with Connect.” Zuckerberg Introduces platform team leaders, including FriendFeed cofounder Bret Taylor, who is leading product for the platform now.

“The roadmap is another step in increasing transparency,” with the intention to help developers plan ahead.

Ethan Beard is now on. He’s heading up the platform. “You guys are really kicking butt,” he tells the room full of developers. He shares some stats — 3 out of the top 10 iPhone apps are now using Connect, for example.

“I’ve been reading in the press, a lot of anxiety about what we’re about to announce. Our goal is to reduce the anxiety, not increase it. The death of platform is greatly exaggerated.” Today, Beard says, “We’ll provide you a lot more predictability.”

As the platform and your apps become more complicated, developer roadmaps go further into the future… 12 months, 18 months. “We’re taking a look at everything happening in Facebook — we’re moving very fast.”

Order of business today:

1. Communication Channels

2. Discover and Engagement

3. New Products and Programs

Caveat: These are mockups of things up to 6 months out, to give you some direction. These decisions have not been made. No new product announcements today. This is the start of a conversation, but also going on in public about best way to build platform.

1. Communication Channels:

New users get confused. New developers get confused by all the options.

A) Broadcast style communication – This takes place in the stream today, will probably always be the most logical place.

B) User to user communication – Today this takes the form of requests and notifications, but these are getting consolidated into the inbox, so that users will have a single point of access to all user-to-user messages. It’s not clear what these messages are going to be called yet. Notifications are going away for platform applications, but Facebook notifications will still exist. “People whose name starts with A gets most invites because that’s what appears in multi-friend selector. It’d be great to show me all friends who play Scrabble, not just ones on top of list. We’ll be investing in improving this. If we can raise fidelity, it will make users happy.”

C) Application to user communication – Developers say “there’s no direct way to contact users; Facebook is in the middle of everything.” Facebook is creating a new feature that will allow users to give a verified, up to date email address to developers. This will give developers a direct channel that they control to get messages in front of users. No longer a question of who owns the user. Connect will also get this.

2. Discovery and Engagement

We hear that users struggle to find applications. “We know where the apps are, but users don’t.”