Facebook to Join the Open Platform Party...Could it be a Little Too Late?

Facebook — the No. 2 social network and perennial hangout of the college set — has a habit of exercising strict, sometimes iron-fisted control over user data, particularly who — including the users themselves — gets to use it. If the rumor mill has it right, though, that's about to change, as Facebook is reportedly on the brink of releasing their Facebook Platform under an Open Source license.

The rumor leapt forth from the pages of TechCrunch yesterday, citing multiple unnamed sources placing the time-of-arrival as early as this week. The social network has been noticeably absent from efforts to make social platforms inter-operable, particularly Google's Open Social effort, which has gathered support from most of the popular networks. Some have suggested that Microsoft, Facebook's current "BFF," may have something to do with the latter, given their to-the-death effort to beat Google at something, anything.

Indeed, Facebook has something of a history of growling at Google, just last week deciding to ban outright Google's Friend Connect service from the network, citing "privacy concerns." Of course, everyone knows that user privacy is Facebook's No. 1 priority, which is why they worked so diligently to protect it when designing Beacon, and why they immediately delete a user's information upon their departure from the site. We're glad to know our privacy is their top concern.

The move to Open Source — if it really is genuine Open Source — is a surprising one, and will certainly limit Facebook's ability to control application development and deployment. With the growth of web-based applications, and the move towards a highly-integrated online experience, it's certain that opening up the developer platform will keep Facebook in the game for now. What's not certain, though, is how far the openness trend will go, given Facebook's traditionally exclusionary way of thinking.

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