Facebook targets developers with fbStart

Facebook has launched a program aimed at giving third-party developers advanced notice of new tools and features, in a bid to encourage them to build businesses around the Facebook platform.

The fbStart program, which is open to early stage business investment groups, has already signed up Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups, Seedcamp and sFund, among others.

Developers within these groups will now receive advanced notice of new Facebook tools and features, as the social media giant attempts to grow its revenue.

In documents filed for its IPO last week, part of Facebook’s pitch to potential shareholders is that it can serve as a platform for other companies, and ultimately take a percentage of their revenue.

Since Facebook first opened up to developers in 2007, a growing number of start-ups have built almost their entire business around the network, namely social gaming company Zynga.

“In 2011, Zynga accounted for approximately 12% of our revenue,” Facebook said in its filing.

For start-ups, it can be easier to create a company that taps into Facebook’s 845 million members rather than attempt to build a user base of their own.

Other examples of Facebook-inspired start-ups include career network BranchOut and Color Labs, which provides live phone-based broadcasts to Facebook friends.

According to David Cohen, founder and chief executive of TechStars, about half of the fund’s 80 active developers will take advantage of fbStart to varying degrees.

“We’ve been asking Facebook for ways to get better access and advance information for our companies, and this is their way of doing that,” Cohen told The Wall Street Journal.

According to a recent study by the University of Maryland’s School of Business, US developers of Facebook apps accounted for more than 182,000 fulltime jobs in 2011.

While there are no figures for Australia, the finding does suggest Facebook is making it increasingly easier for developers to build Facebook apps.

“Traditionally, the model has been to keep your platform closed from competitors,” report author Siva Visawanathan said.

“But people are realising that opening it up can be a big advantage because more apps and services attracts more users.”

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.


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