Friendster Announces Developer Platform; Can You Say "Commodity"?

Good thing we launched the CrunchBase widget, because you may need it to refresh your memory about a certain social networking company called Friendster that’s announcing its own developer platform today (okay okay, to be fair, they do have 50 million users and are very popular in Asia).

Friendster’s platform announcement comes five months after that of Facebook and not even a week after that of MySpace, the company that usurped Friendster a few years ago. Looks like Facebook will need to find itself another major differentiator, because developer platforms are becoming commodities just like social networks themselves.

Admittedly, it may be too early to make this prediction. We haven’t even seen either MySpace or Friendster’s offerings after all. One company may end up continually executing their platform much better than the rest. However, judging by Friendster’s description of their platform – which will be open to developers immediately but not live for users until November 30th – these platforms will probably end up looking very much alike.

Friendster will allow developers to advertise with their widgets but will not require any revenue sharing; there will be a “widget directory” much like Facebook’s application directory; widgets in Friendster will be promoted virally using a “My Network Module” akin to Facebook’s news feed; Friendster widgets will be able to access “Friendster data” (which must mean profile, or “social graph”, data); and Friendster vows to improve the platform over time in response to community feedback.

In what could amount to little more than fluff, but could also mean something more substantial, Friendster is claiming that its platform will be non-proprietary. The suggestion is that widgets developed for other platforms will be easily deployable on Friendster’s platform. Another possible differentiator: it looks as though widget creators will be allowed to display advertisements anywhere they please within their creations, and not just on canvas-like pages as in Facebook.

Friendster is calling this announcement the “third stage” of its opening up process. Apparently in August 2006 the company started letting users add HTML and Flash widgets to their profiles and in September 2007 they created “Fan Profiles” for music promoters. Thus, we arrive at the third stage. Yea, sounds like a stretch to me, too.

If you are a developer who wants to start working now in preparation for November 30th when widgets will be available to Friendster users, you can check out this online documentation.