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New tool from Facebook extends its Web presence

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Brad Stone
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Facebook, the rapidly growing social network, unveiled some new features on Wednesday as it works to broaden its reach online and to recalibrate its sometimes contentious relationship with the thousands of developers writing programs for the service.

In a speech at his company’s annual conference for developers, called F8, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 24-year-old chief executive, also demonstrated the company’s new design. He predicted that there would soon be a wave of social Web sites built on top of the information users give to social networks.

“We are going to see the big social networks start to decentralize into a series of social applications across the Web,” Zuckerberg said. “I think we are at the beginning of a movement and the beginning of an industry.”

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To carve out a piece of that future, the company announced Facebook Connect, a way that other Web sites can integrate parts of Facebook’s service. Web sites can ask users for their Facebook user name and password, instead of creating an identity verification system themselves, and offer their users the ability to import their list of friends from Facebook.

For example, the mobile service company Loopt, based in Mountain View, California, helps people find their friends and see what they are doing on a map on their mobile phone. It will use Facebook Connect so its users do not have to re-enter their connections to the friends they want to track.

“Recreating the social graph and helping people identify who their friends are is never something we wanted to do,” said Evan Tana, director of product management at Loopt. “This makes our lives a lot easier.”

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Sites including Google and MySpace have introduced similar systems for confirming users’ identities.

Facebook Connect is a two-way highway — information about a user’s activity on those other Web sites also travels back and appears on the “news feed” on Facebook, where it is seen by that person’s friends on the service. But Zuckerberg said users could strictly control what they share, jokingly referring to last year’s controversial Beacon advertising program, which was viewed as being overly invasive.

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This article was posted: Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 10:22 am

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