Facebook Adds Adobe Flash to the Platform

As it continues to expand its wildly popular developer platform, Facebook has teamed with Adobe Systems to roll out an open source support library for developers to write applications using Flash technology.

The ActionScript 3 client library, expected to be made public today, will provide developers with 60 APIs to write Flash apps for both the social network and Facebook Connect, a service rolled out last May to port people’s profile information to participating sites around the Web.

Many popular Facebook applications already use Flash, but the new partnership will lower the entry barriers for developers looking to create glossy, video-intensive apps for the site, Facebook Platform Program Manager Josh Elman told InternetNews.com.

“We’re really excited about this,” Elman said. “We found that the libraries that were out there in the market weren’t fully up to date.”

With the new documentation, Flash takes its place along side PHP and Javascript as the officially supported libraries for Facebook Platform. Facebook also recently unveiled a version of the Connect syncing service for Apple’s iPhone.

Applications built on Facebook’s Platform have been widely credited for the site’s surging popularity. Facebook now numbers nearly 200 million members.

Elman said the Platform directory contains about 52,000 apps, and some 660,000 developers have registered.

Elman said Facebook does not keep a tally of how many apps have incorporated Flash, but that 12 of the 20 most popular ones on the site today have used the technology.

“Looking at all the apps out there you see that a lot of developers have already been engaged with Flash,” Elman said. “Now we’re hoping to really simplify that process.”

Fast progress

Facebook and Adobe began working together on the ActionScript 3 library in November, but so far have only previewed the documentation to 10 or 15 developers, Elman said.

The rich-media technology enabled by Flash has already created some of the more memorable Facebook applications, such as CNN’s inauguration-day experiment to provide a live stream of the ceremonies on its Web site in partnership with Facebook. The video appeared on the left side of a split-screen window, enabling Facebook users to chat with their friends on the right side.

Flash is also a favorite technology for developers building gaming applications on the Facebook Platform.

“Gaming is a category that we’ve already seen do very well,” Elman said. “With Facebook, they’re able to build these social games, where you’re competing against your friends.”

Elman foresees a glut of innovative new applications with the new documentation, which he said has now “made it a lot easier for developers to use right out of the gate.”

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