Facebook requests developer friends with new API

Social networking site Facebook opened up an application programming interface (API) today in a move that’s aimed to set it apart drastically from the far more hostile ecosystem of market leader MySpace.

Originally exclusive to college students, Facebook opened up membership to users from select corporations in April. The company reportedly turned down a $750 million acquisition offer in March. If Facebook can succeed in doing with social networking what Salesforce.com is aiming to do with enterprise CRM and its AppExchange, it could really put meat on its bones and go up for sale as more than just a huge data set.

The current version of the API does not support actions to be performed directly on the site but opens many possibilities to interact with user data off site and in desktop applications. At launch both commercial and noncommercial web applications are allowed to make up to 100,000 calls to the API in a 24 hour period.

A limited third party API for Facebook was released by Andre Cohen in January. Apple has also provided a desktop widget to search Facebook profiles for almost a year. Sarah C.P. Williams wrote yesterday about a new Firefox plug-in from a company called StudioLD (warning, annoying Flash page) that changes the look and feel of Facebook. In other words, a clear demand from the developer community for access to Facebook data exists.

The Facebook developers page highlights one application called Facebank that keeps track of debts and shared expenses among Facebook users. The Facebook Developers discussion board already has more than 500 members and we expect to start seeing Facebook mashups being developed quickly. A handful of projects based on the Facebook API have already been posted to the new Google Code depository.