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Facebook to Spread User-Gen Across Net

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook regularly attracts more than 200 million people to its website, but the company is now looking for ways to permeate the lives of its users without the need to check-in to the Facebook site.

The Palo Alto, California company unveiled tools on Monday that allow third-party Web developers to harness the wealth of content generated by Facebook users and to build new online products and services.

Facebook said in a blog post announcing the so-called Open Stream API that Facebook’s user-generated content could ultimately be available in a variety of places, from new online services that do not require a Web browser to specialized cell phone applications.

“In the coming months, you’ll be able to interact with your stream on even more websites and through more applications, in ways we’re only beginning to imagine,” Facebook engineer Justin Bishop wrote on the Facebook blog.

The latest move represents Facebook’s most significant effort to export its content across the Web and comes as Facebook continues to struggle to parlay the massive traffic on its website into meaningful revenue.

“The overall goal for Facebook is to be the platform for connecting, whether it be on Facebook or outside Facebook. So I think having both strategies is pretty smart,” said IDC analyst Caroline Dangson.

Dangson says Facebook could eventually create an advertising network by forging revenue-sharing agreements with companies that build products based on content from Facebook users.

As a private company, Facebook does not disclose its financial information. Some media reports have projected that Facebook’s revenue could range between $400 million and $500 million this year.

The two most popular U.S. online properties, Google Inc and Yahoo Inc, generated $5.5 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively, in the first quarter alone.

Facebook has increasingly positioned the news stream — the barrage of status messages, photos and videos that users post for viewing by their network of friends — as the centerpiece of its service. Last month, the company redesigned its homepage, giving the news stream much greater prominence.

Allowing other companies to leverage the news stream takes a page from the playbook of microblogging start-up Twitter, which has fostered a growing network of innovative websites and services based on the content generated by Twitter users.

Facebook will be hosting a small event for developers at its headquarters later on Monday to brief them on the Open Stream API.

Copyright 2009 Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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