Look at Facebook

Recent traffic statistics at social networking site Facebook are impressive and we’re wondering if there’s a wider story here.

Facebook tells us the site is seeing about 1.5 billion page views a day, up from about 1 billion daily views last month — statistics that haven’t been released until now. That’s a huge jump.

First, myself and non-college friends appear to be getting more unsolicited invites from others — including those not in school — to connect on Facebook. Facebook is going mainstream.

But there’s an undercurrent of development happening, suggesting Facebook may be seeing serious momentum in other ways. It’s old news that Facebook opened its application programming interface last year, which lets software developers outside Facebook build other applications on top of Facebook’s platform and data. The open project is called the Facebook Platform. But Facebook’s growth over the past several months, and improvement to its API policy, deserve attention.

Imagine Facebook user profiles and networks everywhere. In a suite of office software. In an online classroom. In a family’s entertainment system. In whatever application developers choose to connect with.


There are critics of Facebook’s API. Various developer friends of mine complain that third-party sites can’t separately store Facebook user data accessed via Platform — unlike Flickr’s policy, for example, which lets you import and export everything. Facebook says user privacy is a reason for its limitations; retaining data may also be a way of protecting its competitive position. However, Facebook is still more more open than MySpace and Bebo, and it has generally won positive reviews. Even ostensibly critical reviews, ironically, serve to illustrate just how useful Facebook’s APIs are.

And it’s getting better. For example, Facebook this month turned on something called “infinite sessions.” When the API was first released, sites using it to make mashups were forced to have their users log back into Facebook every time they tried to use the mashup. Recently, infinite sessions lets users access the site’s data without having to sign into Facebook each time.

Facebook is growing among older demographics, too, giving it a competitive advantage in making Platform-connected applications relevant to a broad audience. These photos are courtesy of Dave McClure’s Flickr account, taken of presentation slides at an event last month at Facebook.

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So far, over 100 apps have been built on Platform, with more than 4,500 members part of Facebook’s developer group.

Some examples:

Mosoto: allows Facebook users to interact through a real time chat client that analyzes similarities between users, and through a social media/file sharing system that connects users through their music, video, and pictures. Mosoto launched earlier this month and is entirely based on Platform.

Slide: a central place for people to assemble and host slideshows of their pictures that they can then display on pages within various social networks and blogs. Other companies allow Slide integration. But Facebook allows people to upload their entire photo albums to Slide, unlike Facebook’s biggest competitors, Bebo or MySpace. (Clarification: Users can upload Myspace and Bebo albums to Slide, just not as easily – Facebook allows users to dump all photos at once.)

Jobster: a startup job-placement rival to Monster, that has been talking with Facebook about some form of deeper partnership; right now, there’s a “Career Center” mashup (listed in the Platform product directory, at least) that links users to the main Jobster site.

Auctomatic: A startup that’s developing a utility for eBay sellers, is now looking at Facebook closer after initially getting frustrated by it. Cofounder Harjeet Taggar told me Facebook represents an ever growing distribution platform, and “can’t be ignored.”

Facebook is now at more than 20 million registered users, up from 7.5 million users last July, the company told me. (In coming months, Facebook told me, it will begin reporting the number of actual users, or those who have logged into the site in the previous 30 days.) As mentioned, it now has about 1.5 billion page views a day, up from 1 billion page views day last month, it told me. Finally, it has more than 1.3 billion photos on the site, more than the 1 billion last month.

Facebook occasionally likes to tell everyone it is revolutionary. Platform’s senior manager, Dave Morin, told me that Platform is comparable to operating systems like Windows or Mac OS X. Facebook’s ambitions are not limited to what it does on its own site — it wants to “connect the world’s people” by making itself the central directory for any software application.

[Author Eric Eldon thought he was going to become a professional journalist when he graduated from college two years ago. Instead, he is co-founder of Writewith, a company that makes online word processing work for groups. You can reach him at eric@writewith.com.]

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