San Francisco: With an ambitious strategy for expansion, Facebook is getting into MySpace's face.
Facebook, the Internet's second-largest social network, was originally popular on college campuses, but over the last year it has opened its dorm-room doors to all and seen its membership rolls explode at triple-digit growth rates.
Now Facebook, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is inviting thousands of technology companies and programmers to contribute features to its service. They can even make money from the site's users by doing so, and, at least for now, Facebook will not take a cut.
Some of the new features, demonstrated by software developers at a Facebook event here on 24 May, will allow members to recommend and listen to music, insert Amazon book reviews onto their pages, play games and join charity drives, all without leaving the site.
The result is expected to be a proliferation of new tools and activities for Facebook's 23 million active users, who have largely been limited to making online connections, sharing photos and planning events.
The move could foster some of the chaotic creativity that is more closely associated with MySpace, its larger competitor. It could also open the door to hazards like spam, and make Facebook's identity less clear.
But Facebook is thinking big. In the parlance of its 23-year-old chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, the company is positioning itself as a "social operating system" for the Internet. It wants to sit at the center of its users' online lives in the same way that Windows dominates their experience on a PC -- while improving its own prospects for a lucrative acquisition or an eventual public offering.
Facebook, which is largely supported by advertising, has gained significant momentum over the last year. Since the site opened up to nonstudents eight months ago, its membership has doubled to 24 million, according to the research firm ComScore. Users now spend an average of 14 minutes on the site every time they visit, up from eight minutes last September, according to Hitwise, a traffic measuring service.
MySpace remains nearly three times the size of Facebook, with 67 million active members who spend an average of 30 minutes on the site each time they visit.