In May, 2007, Facebook was generating over 40 billion page views a month by providing its users with carefully constructed and controlled services. Yet on May 24, 2007 Mark Zuckerberg took the company in a new direction: developers outside of the company would be given access to many of the services and data at the heart of the work done by Facebook’s own development team. These external developers would be empowered to build whatever independent applications they wanted. The result was an outburst of creativity resulting in thousands and then hundreds of thousands of non-Facebook applications that expanded Facebook’s services and integrated it into other sites — each app potentially making Facebook more valuable to its users.
Facebook is in many ways an anti-model for libraries, but from this one action libraries can learn much. On May 24, 2007, Facebook became a platform: a set of resources — services, data, tools — that enable independent developers to create applications. Interesting possibilities open up if we think of libraries as platforms…open platforms.