Facebook to Open Source Platform?

Michael Arrington at Techcrunch posted that Facebook will be open sourcing their platform.

This is fantastic news for the Social Web. Facebook started this whole process a year ago when they launched the Facebook Platform – a set of API’s that application developers could use to develop social applications that work with Facebook. Google and others responded with Open Social, and took the extra step of providing an open source implementation. So far that implementation is mostly useful to the big social networks so they can open up to application developers like Facebook had done a year ago.

Having been in the open source business for over 16 years (anyone remember OSF Motif?) and more recently JBoss, we understand the many, many benefits of open source. Facebook had taken the position that others just had to rewrite the implementation based on their API. That is what Bebo and Ringside have done. But what a waste of time! One of the things that drew me to open source is being tired of the same code being written dozens of times – with open source everyone can share the load of writing one set of software and reusing it.

This is a natural progression for Facebook. They need to be both a consumer company and a platform company. Gaining the help of an open community on that platform is a great way to go. It opens up lots of others to create even more software for the platform (we would be happy to not have to redevelop the API all over again), and gets more developers working on making the platform better. At JBoss, we were able to compete against much larger competitors like IBM, Oracle and BEA with a far smaller company yet garnered greater market share than any of them. Facebook has to do the same thing. They are a relatively small company competing with Google, NewsCorp and AOL. They need the strength of community to compete.

From our perspective at Ringside, we see this as another step toward the Social Web. For the true power of the Social Web to be delivered, there will need to be more steps toward openness. Hopefully Facebook makes this move forward soon!


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