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Facebook Inc to help ‘outsiders’

world Updated: Jul 25, 2008 00:39 IST

Facebook Inc. is introducing more tools to help the software applications fuelling the online hangout's popularity and is promising to intensify its efforts to weed out programmes that violate its rules for protecting users' privacy. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's precocious chief executive, outlined on Wednesday the steps in a programmers' conference that underscored the growing influence of the Web site that he started 4 years ago in his Harvard University dorm room.

A crowd of about 1,500 programmers turned out to hear Zuckerberg discuss how he hopes to make it easier for people to share information and entertainment wherever they go on the Web. Zuckerberg (24), is counting on programmers who are not employed by Facebook to play a vital role in realising his vision. More than 30,000 applications have been designed to run on Facebook since the company opened its site to outside developers 14 months ago. The most successful applications have been embraced by millions of Facebook users, helping to turn the startups that developed them into hot commodities.

"I have to credit Facebook with a large part of our success," said Hadi Partovi, president of iLike, which offers a music-recommendation application. Partovi said about half of iLike's 30 million users signed up through Facebook.

As the number of outside applications have swelled, Facebook's users have ballooned from 24 million in May 2007 to about 90 million today. The rapid growth has narrowed MySpace.com's lead in the Internet's social networking niche and helped privately held Facebook secure a US$240 million investment from Microsoft Corp. Zuckerberg is setting out to broaden the appeal of Facebook's outside applications by giving programmers access to Facebook's tools for translating into 20 different languages. Facebook is also trying make it easier for its users to transplant their personal profiles and favourite applications to other sites.

The ‘Connect’ initiative, announced in May, moved a step closer to fruition on Wednesday with the opening of a ‘sandbox’ for programmers to begin making their applications more portable. Two dozen Web sites, including Digg, Citysearch and Movable Type, already have signed up for Connect. Facebook expects the feature to debut in autumn.

Having so many outside applications on its site has occasionally caused headaches for Facebook, too. Besides banning abusive programs, Facebook plans to endorse applications it considers to be ‘great.’