"...an example it cites is where a media company could let groups of users share news articles with each other on a page inside Facebook. The firm currently has no plans to share revenue with the companies that develop services to run on Facebook’s platform, but the main draw would be visibility and access to users of the Facebook site."
Interestingly, little has been written about how this whole thing works. My understanding is that Facebook is specifying a "Facebook Markup Language", which you will need to use in your site's content (or in a Facebook-specific feed) so that Facebook's system can properly parse your content and publish it as specified.
As I explained to one of our clients who asked us about how this affects an API program, we at Mashery see the world in this way:
- Facebook Markup Language ("FBML") is the specification of how to encode your content so that Facebook's servers can read and publish it.
- "Content wrapped in a particular markup language such that another computer can read it and do something with it" is also called "a web services API"
- So what Facebook is doing is, essentially, a "Reverse API".
- As they would with any other API, the provider of data in FBML will want to track how it is used, and will want detailed reporting on any metadata included in Facebook's FBML request.
- As an added benefit, Facebook offers their own API that will allow a savvy FBML publisher to extract additional data on how their content is being distributed...and use that data to make the distribution even more effective.
- If FBML is successful in gaining traction, we expect to see other content distribution platforms and social networks adopt it.
Fred Wilson has an interesting take on it, saying:
Instead of the wild west model that exists elsewhere in the social net world, companies that want to play in Facebook's sandbox will be offered the opportunity to build services in Facebook but in a way that works for Facebook.
That's not entirely an open model and may not be what third parties would ideally like. But its better than what exists today and it's big news.
True enough. But it's up to those third parties to make these programs work for them; the way to do that is through gathering the detailed analytics that can help them optimize their content and their distribution to meet their strategic goals. FBML and other programs like it represent a great new opportunity for content and data publishers to take advantage of the web services distribution channel.
Steve O'Hear quotes Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, who said:
“We realize that we’re not going to be able to build everything ourselves here, and it’s not the most efficient thing for us to do that.” He added that letting others build services to interact with Facebook is “definitely going to be a bigger part of our strategy.”
That works both ways. Providers of web content and services can't build all the distribution they need any more than publishers and platforms like Facebook can build everything they will distribute. It's a lovely ecosystem.