What Does Facebook’s Open Stream API Mean for Twitter App Developers?

When Facebook announced the new “Open Stream API” a couple of weeks ago, it made it easy for developers to build applications around the friends timeline in much the same way that Twitter application developers have been doing for a long time. Now that Facebook has made it easy to read and write from the Facebook friends stream, what does that mean for Twitter app developers?

1) All the work you’ve already done around the Twitter friends timeline can now be extended to support the Facebook friends timeline, almost for free.

As we saw when TweetDeck and Seesmic (two popular desktop clients for filtering and publishing to the Twitter sream) launched the first applications built on the Facebook stream APIs, most of the work that developers have put into tools designed to manage the Twitter stream can be easily reused to manage the Facebook stream. In the simplest case, this means just “adding another column” to the experience.

Facebook developed its own stream APIs in light of the Twitter friends timeline API in order to minimize the extension cost to developers. This was a very intentional move by Facebook to compete with Twitter where it’s had the most success – on the API level. Facebook is hoping to capitalize on all the work already done by Twitter app developers by letting them integrate Facebook functionality for free.

2) The Facebook stream has access to much more rich data.

While the Twitter stream only contains text, Facebook’s stream contains several other kinds of interesting object types like profiles, photos, videos, events, etc. that allow for much richer interfaces to be built with the stream.

Twitter app developers can extend the Twitter timeline user experience to let users interact with the richer data that Facebook’s stream contains. As Microsoft’s Silverlight demo showed last week, it only takes a few hours to create a new way to navigate the photo stream. Think about the different things this could mean for visualizing and managing relationships, media, and news…

3) The Facebook stream does NOT allow public timeline search.

Unlike Twitter, where almost all data is public, Facebook is fundamentally built on privacy, and the cardinal rule of Facebook app development is to obey Facebook’s privacy rules and philosophy. This means Facebook does not (and may not ever) allow users or developers to search the full Facebook timeline.

For Twitter applications built on Twitter Search, the concept of a public timeline just doesn’t exist for Facebook users (though it somewhat does for Facebook Pages). Thus, some of the more interesting CRM applications that have been built for Twitter just aren’t possible inside Facebook. The Facebook Open Stream API is just not built for the same types of use cases for marketers.