Social networking site Facebook has launched a new platform to give advertisers a deeper level of free access to its 24 million users by providing them the ability to write applications that can be shared from person to person. Among initial partners using the new service are Microsoft, Amazon and Obama for America.
Speaking to a hall of developers and business partners at the Facebook f8 Event in San Francisco, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the "Social Graph" of the site's users who influence their friends and contacts. Calling the Facebook Platform an operating system to gain access to the Facebook members, he invited developers to create applications to run across the site. The hope is the advertiser applications will generate more traffic, adding ad inventory for Facebook’s paid advertising through the pages generated by the apps, which will cost nothing to the companies adding them to the site.
As part of its launch, Facebook laid claim to 65 partner companies who had already developed over 85 applications to run on the platform. They run the gamut from major businesses like Microsoft, Amazon and Red Bull, to online game companies like social gaming site Bunchball and entertainment fantasy gaming site FantasyMoguls.com. Even more sublime like Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s Obama for America have joined in.
"We're providing integration and distribution; you guys are providing great applications, and together we can help share more information and both benefit," he said.
Zuckerberg demonstrated the new platform's ability for users to share applications, and showed how businesses can serve ads and transactions via those applications, and promised they could keep all the revenues. Facebook, which started as a social networking system for college students, now has over 60 percent of its users over the age of 25, according to Zuckerberg.
"You can build a real advertising business off of Facebook, especially with all the distribution you get on the Social Graph. You get to keep all of the revenue, and you don't even have to send people off the site to process the transactions," said Zuckerberg. "You can run ads or you can run transactions, and we encourage both. This is good for us too, because if you are building good applications, that's helping our users."
For example, Microsoft's Popfly Web-based mashup tool is being integrated onto the Facebook platform to allow users to create applications that can be embedded into their profiles. This is not the first partnership between Facebook and Microsoft, which is the exclusive seller and manager of all display ads on Facebook through its adCenter platform. Microsoft also provides sponsored text link ads for the social networking site.
Amazon, on the other hand, is launching a book reviews application to allow users to share information on their favorite reads.
"This application is...duh...to let the communities on Facebook share their book recommendations. We know now how powerful it is to let others share opinions," Russ Grandinetti, VP of Amazon, joked with the audience. "One of the things that our companies share is a passion for the communities that we serve. Some of the earliest Web community things we built because we were just trying to do the right thing for our readers."
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