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Facebook Developer Platform Goes Open

Facebook Inc., the social website leader, will turn its Developers platform to Open Source this week in an effort to compete against rival Google.

Google’s own project, the Open Social Foundation, provides a common API for social applications across multiple websites. The Open Social Foundation is backed by other industry major players such as Yahoo!, MySpace, Hi5 and LinkedIn, who saw the opportunity to threaten Facebook’s growing popularity by joining forces and offering developers standardized specifications to build non-proprietary social applications.

Bebo, recently purchased by the search engine AOL, has opted to benefit from both alternatives as part of their strategy to grow market share. In November 2007 Bebo embraced Google’s Open Social while announcing one month later the availability of their Open Application Platform which was basically a license of the Facebook Platform.

Google is trying to position its brand in the social sphere in two different ways. The first approach was by launching into direct competition with social networking sites through Orkut, released in 2006, but has been ineffective in gaining a significant market share in the United States. However, it has proved to be very successful in emerging Internet markets in countries such as Brazil and India.

Google’s plan B involves positioning itself as a technology solutions provider in-between websites hosting user profiles data (i.e.: Facebook, MySpace…) and the Internet services that want to publish and make use of it. Last week, we saw Google launching Friend Connect which connects to multiple social networks and allows developers and publishers to use that information in their own applications.

It took only three days after its release to become banned by Facebook, which alleged that it represented a vulnerability to its users privacy.

Facebook is a privately-held company and is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.