Facebook enlists developers to outdo Snapchat’s filters with Profile Expression Kit

Facebook sees 30 million updates to profiles each day, but it can’t build every tool to keep your photos and videos interesting. So today it’s globally rolling out its Profile Expression Kit to all developers. This makes it easy to add media like Vine videos, Boomerang GIFs, Beauty+ enhanced selfies, MSQRD face filters, Lollicam stickers, and Flixel cinemagraphs (seen above) as your profile pic.

Facebook launched Profile Expression Kit with just these six partners in April at its F8 conference. But now any app can apply to add the Profile Expression Kit SDK that lets you turn one of their creations into your profile pic or video. In exchange, the app will get a shout-out and link to download in the News Feed post announcing your new profile image, which are amongst the most popular stories on Facebook.

In fact, Facebook’s product manager Aigerim Shorman tells me “Profiles are the second most visited surface on Facebook after News Feed.” That means working with the Profile Expression Kit could get apps a ton of exposure, which is critical considering how crowded the app stores are and how expensive app install ads have become.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-9-52-25-amLaunch partner Flixel’s Chief Marketing Officer Robert Lendvai tells me “We knew that being invited to join the Profile Expression Kit beta was a huge opportunity for Flixel and Facebook didn’t disappoint. Flixel was the only startup introduced onstage at F8, and the media coverage in the days afterwards helped us close a funding round that included an investment from 500 Startups. Facebook has helped Flixel put cinemagraphs on the map in a very big way.”

As I discussed in my feature piece “Facebook’s next big platform: your camera”, Facebook has often relied on developers to provide more customized experiences it couldn’t code by itself. The original app platform filled Facebook with a variety of games to play, while Open Graph let you show off your Spotify listening or the books you’ve read.

Facebook doesn’t have to pay developers to build this stuff. Instead it just dangles its greatest resource — users. Developers are desperate for traction, and will make Facebook more dynamic if its gets them downloads.

Though Snapchat might have the best native expression filters and lenses, Facebook is now fighting back with its platform. By crowdsourcing fun ways to show off your face, it could lure in teens with more creativity tools than any one company could build itself.