For entrepreneurs, one of the best features of Twitter is it’s API. Twitter allows developers to tap into its stream of 1 billion monthly tweets to create new applications and websites. This Twitter API has spawned several unique applications and projects that have benefited internet users in a variety of ways. This API has also spawned several real time search engines, such as Sency, which tap into sources such as Twitter to offer real time results for internet users.
A result of this API is that Twitter’s real time data is syndicated across the web. So, even if you are a not a user of Twitter, you can get real time information from multiple places. So people whom have never signed up for a social networking site – can still see what is being said right now on the real time web. However, Facebook is very different.
When you visit Facebook.com – you can’t easily search other users status updates. And, since Facebook doesn’t give out its data via an API – other websites can’t leverage Facebook’s real time data to offer something for internet users. There are tons of Facebook apps, but those are there to benefit existing Facebook users. Since the Facebook API isn’t available to outside developers – if you aren’t a user of Facebook – you probably aren’t going to be able to learn much about what is going on at Facebook.
Facebook wants its users data to be shared with users’ friends, not the world. Web developers would jump at the opportunity to “run” with the Facebook stream of data to build exciting new websites and to improve existing websites. However, without an API – this hasn’t happened yet.
Twitter wants developers to run with external applications because if those applications grow, Twitter will be the glue that holds those applications together. This, in effect, ensures Twitter’s future. For example, there are hundreds of websites which Twitter has no ownership in, but which take advantage of Twitter’s free API. If those sites grow and receive 100 million visitors per month – that will benefit Twitter because it makes “Tweeting” even more important because now your Tweets will get distributed not only on Twitter, but also on the sites all over the web which are powered by Twitter. By empowering web developers, Twitter has an army of entrepreneurs out there baking in the Twitter feed to their properties. So, the question is – will Facebook ever play this game?
In October of 2009, Facebook announced Open Graph API which was a move in this direction. This API, which is net yet available, will allow other websites to develop a Facebook like page, powered by Facebook technology, without the page having to be on Facebook.com. This would empower websites to have the tools offered to Facebook users live on an external website controlled by an outside webmaster. While this will be something new for webmasters to tap into– it most certainly won’t offer anything close to what Twitter currently offers.
Over time, developers hope they will have more access from Facebook, and slowly, some more tools and functions may become available. At the same time, developers are being empowered by Twitter to run with great new products. Twitter is clearly leading the charge to fuel continued innovation for everyone to have access to throughout the mainstream web.
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