Facebook targets Google with licensing program

Lets other social networks license technology to build applications that run on multiple sites

In a direct shot across the bow of Google and its OpenSocial project, Facebook Thursday announced plans to allow other social networks to license its technology so that Facebook applications can run on those sites.

A day earlier, Bebo, a social network that rivals MySpace and Facebook in terms of popularity in some parts of the world, announced that it will be the first social network to license Facebook's standards so that developers can extend Facebook's applications to Bebo.

Facebook was noticeably absent among the companies that signed on in early November to Google's OpenSocial project aimed at providing developers with APIs to create applications that would work on multiple social networks. Facebook opened its APIs to developers in August 2006 to allow developers to build Facebook applications.

With this announcement, developers can write an application once that will then be able to run on other social networking sites that have licensed Facebook's APIs.

"At Facebook, we've always recognized that social context is an essential part of providing a great experience for our users, and we've wanted our users to have the best social experience whether they were on our site or off," the company noted Thursday on its developers blog. "Of course, Facebook Platform will continue to evolve, but by enabling other social sites to use what we've learned, everyone wins -- users get a better experience around the Web, developers get access to new audiences and social sites get more applications.

Nick O'Neill, who blogs about Facebook at AllFacebook, noted that Facebook is aiming to standardize the social networking platforms across the Web so that they can be integrated in the future. "If other social networks adopt the Facebook platform, it will be a massive blow to Google. So who will the competition decide to partner with: Google or Facebook?"

Blogger Richard McManus noted that while Bebo has also committed to use Google's OpenSocial, the move to use Facebook's APIs marks a win for the latter over Google, whose "OpenSocial is looking increasingly like a marketing ploy with little substance. That may change as we learn more about how OpenSocial is being deployed by the likes of MySpace. But thus far, Facebook continues to ramp up its developer platform -- and Bebo's support is a big win for them."

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