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Facebook wants to energize its developer community in order to combat rivals like MySpace and Twitter, and it's giving them access to users' news streams through an open platform.
With the Open Stream API, third-party developers can create apps that let users view photos, status updates, events, and other information from their Facebook account without ever visiting the Web site. These new apps can display this information with desktop and mobile clients, as well as on other Web sites that can ditch the Facebook user interface altogether if users desire. Programmers could also use this API to create new apps within Facebook that could filter or remix the news stream.
The social network has been working with beta developers like Seesmic to create the Activity Streams standard, which is a major component of the new API. Users still have control over privacy of their streams, and apps built with the Open Stream API have to ask for permission to access the news feed.
"We think that working alongside our peers to create an open standard for accessing and consuming streams is the future," Facebook said on its developer blog. "We'll continue to make contributions to the standards community and related technologies and are happy to be one of the first companies to implement Activity Streams at scale."
The stream has been an increasingly important part of Facebook's strategy, as its recent redesign put it front and center. Rival Twitter has a similar API that has been well-received, as a large number of Twitter's 20 million users access it through a desktop or mobile client.
The move could be somewhat of a gamble for Facebook because it could lead to less direct traffic to its site, and the company is already struggling to sell enough ads to support the infrastructure costs of its 200 million users. Facebook said Open Stream API is focused on increasing membership and user activity, not direct monetization.
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