Facebook apps accelerate sharing
San Francisco - Social media giant Facebook released dozens of new applications to let users catalogue every aspect of their lives, from movies to books to food to fashion, and share them with friends.
"Whatever you love, whatever story it is you want to tell, you can add that to your timeline," said Carl Sjogreen, director of platform products for Facebook.
The initial batch of some 60 "apps" included contributions from companies such as Foodspotting, Rotten Tomatoes, Pinterest, TripAdvisor and e-reader Kobo.
The handful of companies present at the rollout event in San Francisco pitched their apps as a way to allow users to more fully integrate their social experiences outside of Facebook into their social networking profile.
Someone reading an e-book from Kobo, for example, could highlight passages they want to share with Facebook friends. The app also will automatically track which books they have finished or started reading and connect them with other Facebook users reading the same books.
Richard Penner of Kobo said the company views books as a social experience and believes that is what its customers want too. "We believe users want to engage with each other," he said.
It was a theme echoed by almost all developers who gathered in a chic, softly lit downtown lounge to show off their apps: It's no longer enough to simply allow users to "like" a book or a pair of jeans; an entire social experience should be created around everyday habits.
With the app from Foodspotting, food connoisseurs can easily share their love of a particularly delicious cheeseburger or just let friends know they tried an avocado roll at a new sushi place everyone is talking about.
"It gives extra context to friends," said Foodspotting spokesperson Fiona Tang.
Developers were quick to emphasise user control over which actions appear on Facebook - an issue that has prompted concern among some privacy rights advocates since the apps were first announced in 2011.
Users initially must give each individual app permission to track their cheeseburger and romance novel habits. After that, their actions are automatically - or "frictionlessly", as Facebook likes to say - fed back to Facebook.
In some cases, the actions by users also appear on outside websites to show friends which movies they watched or which articles they read on a site.
Bryan Estrada of Rotten Tomatoes said users receive reminders when they perform actions - like rating a movie - that are recorded onto their Facebook tickers for the world to see.
Users can then choose to delete the action from Facebook if, for example, they would rather not share their love of Twilight vampire movies.
The app provides "another level of engagement" for Rotten Tomatoes users, Estrada said. "It's pretty exciting."
Ben Silbermann, chief executive officer and co-founder of Pinterest, a site that allows users to create organised collections of virtually any information, said users can easily keep their collections of Star Wars memorabilia private if they want.
His wife used the site to plan their wedding, he said, and "might not have wanted everyone to see the bridesmaid dresses".
Over time, the apps will track almost any aspect of life users prefer - from cappuccinos to world travels - and catalogue them into the Facebook "Timeline", a new feature that essentially turns a personal profile into a virtual scrapbook.
With Timeline, Facebook users can easily scroll through years of events to see where a friend spent spring break in 2005, for example, or if they ever uploaded photos from a study-abroad semester in Paris.
Sjogreen of Facebook said that in addition to the roughly 60 apps released on Wednesday evening, the company plans to approve more apps from developers that want to integrate with the social media giant.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Sjogreen said.