What Is Facebook Opening Up To Developers On Monday?

We’ve been saying that Facebook is expected to open up access to the feed for a while now and it appears that tomorrow is the day. Last week we were invited to a Monday afternoon developer cocktail hour at Facebook during which the announcement is expected to take place. This evening Jessica Vascellaro wrote about the expected announcement stating core parts would be opened, “namely the information that appears in the stream of updates on users’ homepages and profiles.”

Part of Vascellaro’s scoop is a bit questionable though since everything she has mentioned is already available. Vascellaro states “developers can build services that access the photos, videos, notes and comments users upload to Facebook, with users’ permission.” Developers already had access to this information for months so there must be additional functionality, right?
While there are hints of additional functionality, Vascellaro doesn’t appear to reveal anything new. We’ve been writing for some time that Facebook is expected to open up two things: the feed and shared items. If developers could track shared items, this would be a huge opportunity and it would fall in line with Facebook’s continued assault on Twitter. Why would this have such a significant impact?

The Opening of Shared Items

Currently some of the most popular Twitter sites aggregate news stories that have been posted on Twitter over the past 24 to 48 hours. Twitturly is probably the best known aggregator of news stories on Twitter although there are many others (check out retweetist which is another great one). There’s one core component that gives Facebook’s shared items a lot more potential: networks.
Imagine if you could instantly filter popular stories based on geographic location (e.g. Washington, D.C. or San Francisco, CA) or company (e.g. popular articles at Bank of America). Right now there are few filtering mechanisms built into Twitter because they don’t require a significant amount of information from new users. Twitter also fails to standardize networks. On Facebook there is only one Washington, D.C. network whereas on Twitter “Washington, D.C.” and “D.C.” are separate locations.
The bottom line is that being able to track what’s currently popular on Facebook would add a lot of value for developers and present many new opportunities. While we currently track the growth of Facebook public profiles, there is no way to currently track shared news items.

Opening Of The Feed

Jessica Vascellaro suggests that Facebook may be granting developers access to the feed. This would mean that if you install a Facebook application, the developer could access your news feed stories as long as your friends’ privacy settings permitted. This would make sense but right now users’ default privacy settings are too restrictive.
That could change in the near future as last month Facebook added a privacy setting titled “Everyone” which lets anybody view specific segments of your profile. Facebook has been encouraging users to take advantage of this new feature via their own advertisement on the homepage but we don’t know how effective that promotion has been.
Opening the feed makes a lot of sense as Facebook continues to open up the platform. In February I wrote that Facebook must handle the Twitter threat part of which was opening up access to more information to “create the second wave of Facebook platform buzz.” Public profiles were the first step in opening up more and tomorrow’s announcement may be the second step but I’m not sure it will be access to the feed.

What Else Could It Be?

Yes, Facebook may open up the feed tomorrow but so far there is no information, even in the Wall Street Journal, that explains what functionality that entails. Opening up access to the feed is an extremely complex process from a privacy standpoint which leads me to believe that shared items will be opened up first. Ultimately we’ll find out by tomorrow. I’ve contacted Facebook for more information but I’m not sure when or if we’ll hear back before tomorrow afternoon.
Facebook got back in touch and said they’d have an update in the morning. We’ll be sure to post an update then.