Facebook last night unveiled a new developer platform that enables third-parties to create applications within Facebook. These applications can be added to a user’s account and interact with the network to add new functionality to the dashboard, newsfeed, and profiles. This enables a whole new approach to Facebook for companies. No longer are they constrained to a simple group or profile. Companies can now create immersive experiences built right into Facebook and using more information than the Facebook API allowed access to. Facebook Platform is launching with numerous partners, among them are Microsoft and Amazon. Amazon is said to be working on a Facebook application that will let users review books and then buy them on Amazon.
More importantly are the comments that Facebook will allow developers to include ads in their applications and will not require part of the revenue. This could have a tremendous impact on the Facebook community. The abundance of applications will hopefully force developers to focus on the user experience, especially when college students are notoriously fickle. If people fall in love with an application they can promote it to their friends using the power of the social network. Applications can offer content for newsfeeds, add a box on a user’s profile, and even add a link under a user’s profile. Expecting a flood of new applications, Facebook has added a feature where users can dynamically manage their profiles by dragging and dropping their profile boxes to create the desired layout.
With this new platform comes a few Facebook-specific languages. FQL allows developers to use SQL-like commands to gather data, and the application itself is displayed using FBML which is an HTML variant. FBML enables developers to create simple HTML that is then interpreted by Facebook to create a uniform experience. An example would be <form> FBML creating a form that contains hidden elements used by Facebook. Facebook’s developer site already has documentation on the Platform and various code samples. According to the video on their site they have been working on this for months and it shows.