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Verizon Bringing Facebook, Twitter to FiOS TV

If it works for the smartphone, why not the TV?

Verizon today unveiled its vision for syncing the Web up with its FiOS TV service, complete with the type of app marketplace that has transformed devices like Apple's iPhone into everything from a simulation of a beer stein to a glucose meter.

The new Widget Bazaar applications marketplace is launching with free apps from Twitter, Facebook and ESPN in an effort to make TV more interactive, essentially piping the social Web into your television set.

"With FiOS, passive TV becomes social TV, part of the sweeping cultural shift that's changing how people connect with one another to share ideas, information and entertainment," Shawn Strickland, Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) vice president of marketing, said in a statement.

The Twitter app, for instance, enables TV viewers to follow tweets pertaining to the program they're watching, or to scan through hot and trending topics and create a list of trending topics.

The Facebook tie-in offers a widget where members of the social network can log in using Facebook Connect and update their status to alert their pals that "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" is on and they are not to be bothered.

The experience of Facebook and Twitter on a FiOS-connected TV is going to be a pared-down version of the services people are used to on the Internet. As they're launching today, people won't be able to access their individual Twitter accounts and post messages. Similarly, with the Facebook widget, users actions are limited to status updates and viewing photos on their friends' profile pages.

ESPN's contribution is a widget that enables Fantasy Football players to check their points and access stats on the screen.

But those are only the beginning. Verizon is planning to release a software development kit (SDK) to enable developers to build their own applications, either for free or at a cost, that would become accessible to any FiOS subscriber through the set-top box.

However, unlike the mobile app stores, Verizon is limiting the SDK to a select group of developers in an effort to retain control over the content, which means that the Widget Bazaar is unlikely to balloon into a hub like Apple's app store, where users have their pick of tens of thousands of applications to spruce up their iPhones.

A company spokeswoman told InternetNews.com that the SDK, which will use the Lua programming language, will likely be released later this summer.

In addition to the Widget Bazaar, Verizon has also partnered with online video hubs blip.tv, Dailymotion and Veoh to connect their libraries of user-generated content with its DVR service so DVR subscribers will be able to search and view Web videos on their TVs. Verizon is also rolling out a My Videos feature that allows DVR subscribers to view videos stored on their PCs on their TV.