Facebook‘s latest move to open up its data is coming in the form of instant messaging. The company is working on a way to connect your list of Facebook friends on its new chat service to other instant messaging services, using an open-standard instant messaging technology called Jabber/XMPP.

The significance is that application developers — and other instant message clients — will be able to integrate Facebook chat into their applications.

According to the company’s developer blog post about it, users can:

* Communicate with their friends
* See which of their friends are online and view their profile pictures
* Set their statuses

This will matter most obviously to applications such as social games that already rely on real-time communication between users, as well as applications that try to aggregate multiple IM services.

Facebook, along with social networking rival MySpace and all-around rival Google, have all recently given third-party sites new access to their data, offering more ways for developers to access site data.

This is another step down that path. By working on — and pre-announcing — this news, Facebook is helping to keep developers focused on it, rather than its rivals.

(Facebook’s current chat feature pictured above.)

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