Is Facebook going open source? Today Techcrunch leaked rumors that Facebook will soon open it’s application platform, the aptly titled Facebook Platform, to cross-channel integration. In other words, applications created exclusively for Facebook will now be compatible with other social networks.
This concept isn’t revolutionary; Google, backed by MySpace and Yahoo, launched OpenSocial last November to provide an open platform for cross-network application development. Facebook, on the other hand, has notoriously been viewed as the “walled garden” of social networks, due to Facebook’s refusal to collaborate with other platforms. Thus, the switch to open source, though clearly reactive to Google, is significant, because it eliminates any competitive advantage that OpenSocial (and Google / Yahoo / MySpace) might hold over Facebook.
Given Facebook’s “walled garden” reputation, however, several key questions arise. For example, how truly “open” will the platform be? Which open source license will Facebook choose?
The answers to these questions hold huge implications for the potential value of an open Facebook Platform: the volume of people using an application, the potential demographic behavior collected, and the means by which users find applications may all significantly increase from cross-network distribution. For advertisers, that would mean better conversion rates and prices. For Developers, it means better application visibility and utility. Finally, for users, it would hopefully mean an end to applications that are meaningless outside of Facebook. That’s right, you heard it here first – SuperWall, SuperPoke RIP.