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Facebook grows up as a software firm, though some developers are wary

Zach Miners | May 2, 2014
Facebook is not your scrappy startup anymore. It's providing a host of tools for third-party developers aimed at catching bugs swiftly, more toolkit options and lending a big helping hand in app development.

Facebook is not your scrappy startup anymore. It's providing a host of tools for third-party developers aimed at catching bugs swiftly, more toolkit options and lending a big helping hand in app development.

On Wednesday the social network — in a real social move — held its F8 conference for developers, after three years of laying low and not hosting the quasi-annual event.

F8 is not strictly speaking a consumer-focused affair. It's a gala for third-party software developers looking to harness Facebook's vast bucket of services, including analytics, advertising and promotion tools. Though developers' use of the tools often lead to consumer-facing products, like the Facebook log-in.

That bucket of services is growing. During F8 Facebook announced a stream of new tools, all geared toward helping developers build, grow and monetize their apps. Still other tools come courtesy of Parse, which Facebook acquired last year.

Stability was a key focus in the offerings. "We're focused on building a stable mobile platform," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg, during the keynote address.

The company now has a two-year stability guarantee for its core API (application programming interface), Zuckerberg said. The company also announced API versioning, to let developers decide which version of Facebook's API they'd like to build on.

Previously, Facebook's rapid changes to its API caused headaches for developers, whose apps that relied on it might break when changes were made.

And Zuckerberg said Facebook is committed to fixing all major bugs within 48 hours. The goal, Zuckerberg said, is to make Facebook's platform more stable and reliable for developers to build apps on top of. "We think we can help you ship even more great apps," he said.

Facebook's chief even proposed a snazzy, though less sexy, new mantra for the company. Instead of "move fast and break things," now Facebook is all about — wait for it — "move fast with stable infra." Infra is short for infrastructure.

All signs point to Facebook trying to act more like a grown-up software company. As part of that, the company hopes to keep developers happy by providing a more reliable partner to work with.

But are developers really Facebook's friend? It's complicated.

At the show, some developers generally agreed that Facebook has become a more reliable partner, but they still voiced concerns, including the possibility that Facebook might be stretching itself too thin.

"They are still moving fast, but they may not break as many things," said Diana Moldavsky [cq], chief revenue officer at Zeptolab, a Russian gaming company, during an interview.

Zeptolab was an early partner in Facebook's new advertising Audience Network, also announced during the show, which lets developers tap Facebook's user data to deliver targeted ads inside their own apps.

 

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