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Facebook tries to develop good will at F8 confab

July 23, 2008 |  4:15 pm
Mark Zuckerberg at F8

He sauntered on stage to Weezer's "Say It Ain't So," a wunderkind chief executive in a hoodie sporting a big vision. That vision from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg packed the annual F8 conference today with hundreds of the 400,000 entrepreneurs from 160 countries who create features and tools for the popular social network.

The splashy conference in San Francisco reflected the company's early success. Techno soundtrack? Check. Designer lounge chairs? Check. Excessive heat generated by all the fanboys and girls and bright lights? Check.

Zuckerberg greeted the throngs with a (mostly) well-choreographed keynote speech calling on them to continue to participate in and propel the revolution that Facebook started. Zuckerberg sees his Palo Alto company's mission this way: Make it possible for people to connect with people and share information all around the world. As time goes on, more people will share and connect through the features and tools these entrepreneurs create rather than those created within Facebook, he says.

Since the Facebook platform for developers launched at the first F8 in May 2007, some of these entrepreneurs have built features used by millions on Facebook and, in turn, have leveraged that success to raise millions in venture capital. Zuckerberg said Facebook now has 90 million users worldwide. "A lot of them are coming to use the applications you guys and we have built," he said.

Zuckerberg knows that he owes some of his site's explosive growth ...

... to the people in the room. And that's what the confab is all about: wooing developers -- and trying not to alienate them. Some new changes that will dramatically increase and decrease the visibility of some features have prompted some developers to wonder if Facebook always has their best interests in mind.

Two of the biggest winners today: Music sharing site iLike and Causes, the application that helps Facebook users raise awareness and money for their favorite causes. They were singled out as "great apps," meaning they achieve Facebook's goal of helping users share information in meaningful ways.

Facebook plans to reward applications that achieve their goals and punish more abusive applications, Zuckerberg said. Applications can compete to become "great apps" starting next month.

Facebook also announced that it has created a new system to help users figure out which applications they can trust. It also has set aside nearly $10 million for grants to worthy applications in a competition.

One of the day's major announcements was long anticipated: Facebook Connect, which, with the help of developers, hopes to connect with sites around the Web (Digg, Six Apart and Citysearch were featured during the keynote). The idea is to allow people to share their information and connections no matter where they are. It is similar to other efforts underway from Google and others.

One thing not announced, disappointing the throngs: a payment system.

Earlier this week, Facebook released its new site design for users to play with. The redesign will be rolled to Facebook's more than 90 million users in coming weeks.

All of the announcements were designed to show that Facebook had learned from past mistakes and strengthen the company in the future, Zuckerberg said. "When we look back at the last year, we have gotten a lot done," he said. "We've advanced a lot toward building a meaningful social platform and a community."

At the close of the nearly hour-long keynote, a video boomed onto the screen with Zuckerberg's voice: "Today, together, we are going to start a movement."

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Brian Solis via Flickr

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