Last Saturday I got to attend the Facebook Developer Garage in downtown Chicago that was hosted by Clarity Consulting. I am a relatively new user to Facebook, so I had a lot to learn about Facebook as a web site and as a developer platform. I am glad that I went to the event because I learned a lot about both of these things. Overall the event was pretty good, but it was not without its hiccups. The biggest hiccup was that Facebook was supposed to send someone to give the keynote address, but at the last minute they had to pull out of the event (probably got a great idea about a new feature that they just had to implement). There was some delay while trying to set up a video conference with them that never got started. In the end, Jia Shen from Rock You! (a company that builds applications for social networks like MySpace and Facebook) stepped in a gave a great keynote presentation. He did a great job of explaining the basics of the platform and then showed us newbies how to build a “hello world” style application on the platform.
I spent a lot of time talking with the various attendees and I got to see what some of the startup companies where doing with Facebook, like Swap Simple who have integrated the facebook login with their site. I added several new friends to my Facebook account and even ran into Jeremy and Kevin from Web414 at the event. I then spent some time building Mashups of Facebook photos with popfly. I took some pictures of the event, you can see them on Facebook or on Flickr.
Thoughts on Facebook as a platform
I like Facebook as a web application, but I am still trying to figure out how much of a developer platform that it is. They have done some impressive stuff with opening up their web site to people who want to build Facebook “applications”. However, the standard Facebook application runs on the Facebook website. I don’t see a lot of openness to exposing the data outside of Facebook (there was some information that you could tap into from popfly, but it was limited). I look at other platforms like Flickr and Twitter where there is a rich eco-system of complimentary applications that have been built on the APIs from those sites and I don’t see that yet in Facebook. I hope that over time they start to open up more Internet based APIs so it will grow into a true platform. Maybe they were working on that last weekend. 🙂
Thanks again to Clarity for hosting such a cool event. They paid for coffee and doughnuts in the morning and pizza and beer in the afternoon. Way to step up guys.