Facebook Developer In a controversial keynote speech last week at cmf2007 in Denmark, B.J. Fogg, founder of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, proclaimed that "Web 2.0 was dead", that Facebook had shifted the game and that "there might not be a more persuasive technology [than Facebook]." Well, it was not a universally agreed upon message, nor I'm sure was it intended to be. Nevertheless, it provoked some measure of good discussion, and based on recent announcements it seems that our bustling UK-based Alfresco -- commercial open source enterprise cms vendor extraordinaire -- is in-tune with Mr. Fogg and has similarly swallowed the blue pill. According to the company, Alfresco has integrated the Facebook platform, allowing enterprise content to be uploaded and shared with customers and employees in a "controlled, secure and audited way."

Leverage Social Apps, Or Fall Behind

Alfresco is pushing for the expansion of social computing in the enterprise. John Newton believes this is an imperative, and even more, that it is being driven by a new generation of information workers who just can't stand the current state of enterprise software. In a recent statement, an Alfresco spokesperson asserted that organizations must choose either to ban social software use or to harness its potential. Like the folks attending this week's Executing Social Media conference, the company clearly believes that social apps like Facebook can be harnessed to better communicate with the communities of customers, partners and employees. And further that the emerging social application platforms can potentially achieve great things in the knowledge management and collaboration realms.

Alfresco's First Facebook Application

In speaking with John Newton, Alfresco's CTO, today, he explained that their first Facebook application is just an example. Its meant as a demonstration and as a developer reference. By exposing their REST API to Facebook any number of scenarios are theoretically possible -- from document sharing to workflow management to user management. Though John admits that collaboration around published content is the most likely use case. The application is modeled on existing Facebook photo and video sharing apps and as such leverages Facebook's native security and access control framework and then augments this with Alfresco's own object level ACL capabilities. Users who install and configure the application can create document libraries and then assign access to groups and/or to specific users. Alfresco Document Libraries in Facebook
Alfresco Document Libraries in Facebook The core elements of the example application include: * Facebook application registration * Facebook authorization and single sign-on * Facebook Markup Language (FBML) for a seamless and standard look and feel * Content services integration via Alfesco's Web Scripts Framework

A Light Integration Architecture

Alfresco has tried to keep things light. Under the covers, an Alfresco Facebook Application is developed by referencing both standard Facebook development practices and Alfresco's Web Script Framework (see: Alfresco Goes Light with Web Scripts Pattern). The Web Scripts framework has been extended as part of the project, so would be Facebook/Alfresco developers won't be scared off by nasty things like Java coding IDEs, compile-time errors or null reference exceptions. Alfresco Facebook Application Architecture
Alfresco Facebook Application Architecture

The Rise of Facebook Enterprise

Last May, Facebook formally launched the Facebook Platform, a custom markup language (FBML) and a set of open APIs. The goal was to position Facebook as the best foundation for incorporating social features into a wide variety of applications, including those aimed at business users. As of the writing of this article there are 8 234 applications in the Facebook directory. Of these about 380 are tagged as business applications. However, many items in the Business category are not things I would personally consider business-oriented. For example the I Am Vegetarian or Popstar Babe apps while potentially utilitarian, just might not strike you as fitting the category. Alfresco claims to be the "first software vendor to take advantage of the platform for an enterprise application." One might consider that a rather optimistic statement -- offerings such as Zoho Office, FileFactory and Project have already notched-out spots in the list. What is clear is that with the thirty-something professionals being the fastest growing segment of Facebook users, the business category in the Facebook Apps Directory will be quickly evolving beyond job boards and popstar babes.