Facebook opens activity streams; offers API to developers

New Facebook app lets users see real-time streams running on desktops or cell phones

Facebook Inc. today moved to virtually free the activity streams of its users.

Traditionally, Facebook users could only see the updates and postings of friends by logging onto their home pages. That's no longer the case.

Facebook has unveiled a new tool, called Facebook Desktop for Adobe AIR, that lets users see a running timeline, or stream, of the activities of their friends on a desktop computer or even on a cell phone, said Justin Bishop, a Facebook engineer, in a blog post today.

"Your stream will appear just as it does on Facebook.com and maintain the same privacy settings," wrote Bishop. "We believe that the ability to see more and more of what is happening around you will lead to greater openness and transparency."

And in a move aimed at enabling users to do even more with their flow of postings, Facebook is also opening the activity stream to third-party developers.

The new Facebook Open Stream API is designed to enable developers to write a slew of new applications that allow users to automatically do tasks like organizing and manipulating their postings.

"We think that working alongside our peers to create an open standard for accessing and consuming streams is the future," said Ray He, a member of the company's development team, in a separate Facebook blog post today. "With the Facebook Open Stream API, users will be able to use applications to read and interact with their stream. As a Facebook developer, you'll also be able to access the posts you've published into the stream and display them in your application, whether it's on a mobile device, Web site or desktop."

Bishop noted that Facebook has already been working with a few internal and third-party developers to get an early start on the effort to create new applications, such as the one released by the company today. He said that other new programs will be available for review starting later today in the Facebook Application Directory under For Your Desktop.

"In the coming months, you'll be able to interact with your stream on even more Web sites and through more applications, in ways we're only beginning to imagine," he added.

Just last week, Facebook announced that users' votes on its new governance rules had been tallied and it was clear that users want a new set of governing documents for the site.

The vote came about a few months after thousands of outraged Facebook users slammed the social networking site for taking too much control over their content. In a move to make amends -- and to give the angry users more of a say in what happens to their content -- Facebook late last week announced that it would let them choose between two terms-of-service options: the current terms of use and a new set of rules called the Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

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