Facebook launches new tools for business

Facebook has revealed a group of new tools designed for businesses and developers to better integrate their personal websites with some popular features on the giant social network, saying it will completely change how users browse the web.

It comes as new ComScore data reveals the site is becoming stronger by the day, with nearly 484 million unique visitors during March 2010 – an increase of 64% from the same point in 2009.

At the company’s annual F8 developer’s conference, the company has introduced three new technologies designed to help external websites better integrate their own services. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said at the conference these tools will help websites become more interactive, arguing that “social experiences are a lot more engaging” for users.

The first announcement was for Social Plugins, which will enable developers to add a Facebook-like interaction tool to their website. Zuckerberg described these as basically bringing the Facebook style of interaction onto any type of website.

These plugins are all about adding Facebook information to your own site, including a new “like” button which can be added, along with feeds which show a user’s own profile along with recommendations for content.

Adding a “like” button onto a website would enable business owners to determine what users approve and disapprove of on their own site. Zuckerberg displayed an example of CNN, which can use the button to determine whether users like or dislike a certain news story.

The potential for this integration is huge, according to Zuckerberg, who said that “we expect that in the first 24 hours developers will put one billion ‘Like’ buttons on the web… people can have instantly social and personalised experiences everywhere they go”.

Other plugin tools include an activity box, which Facebook users can use to monitor their friends’ recent activities and receive recommendations for content. Facebook director of platform product Bret Taylor said adding these plugins would make a site much more powerful than it would be otherwise, attracting more browsers.

The second major announcement was for the Graph API, which will allow developers to build websites that integrate with certain Facebook functions. This is a more technical development, and really relates to how developers write certain pieces of code.

But the third, and arguably most important, announcement was for the Open Graph Protocol. This major update will allow Facebook users to add data from external web pages to their profiles, and will give developers access to Facebook analytics data.

Essentially, what this means is that Facebook is extending its reach outside of the Facebook.com portal. If a user goes to film-industry encyclopaedia site IMDB and hits the “like” button next a favourite film, that data will be added to the user’s profile automatically and will be shown to that user’s friends.

Zuckerberg said the Open Graph protocol will launch with 30 partners, (including IMDB). He described the move as an attempt to make a user’s whole internet experience more social, connecting everything they visit to their own personal profile.

“This is a really significant step for Facebook. For years we’ve been saying that FB is an open platform, but now for the first time, the likes and interests of my Facebook profile link to places that are not Facebook.com… My identity is not just defined by things on Facebook, it’s defined by things all over the web.”

“These connections aren’t just happening on Facebook, they’re happening all over the web, and today with the Open Graph we’re bringing all these things together,” Zuckerberg said.

Additionally, application developers are also being provided with some fancy new features. Zuckerberg announced the 24-hour limit for sites storing Facebook data has now been lifted, allowing programmers to create more intricate and powerful apps.

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