Facebook has today announced that it will now allow developers to build features on the platform that are similar to what Facebook is already offering. This is now possible as the company has announced that it is dropping Platform Policy section 4.1, which stipulates developers to add something unique to the community and not to replicate core functionality that Facebook already provides.
This move will now significantly reduce the risk for developers of getting banned who are building on the Facebook platform. It could also project the company in a better light in the eyes of regulators. It could also be seen as the company’s efforts for creating a fair and open platform where developers can build without fear of straying too close to Facebook’s history or roadmap.
In a statement to TechCrunch, the company’s spokesperson said:
We built our developer platform years ago to pave the way for innovation in social apps and services. At that time we made the decision to restrict apps built on top of our platform that replicated our core functionality. These kind of restrictions are common across the tech industry with different platforms having their own variant including YouTube, Twitter, Snap and Apple. We regularly review our policies to ensure they are both protecting people’s data and enabling useful services to be built on our platform for the benefit of the Facebook community.
The spokesperson further added that as part of the company’s ongoing review, Facebook has decided to remove the out of date policy to ensure that the platform remains as open as possible. The statement added that the company thinks that “this is the right thing to do as platforms and technology develop and grow.”
The change comes after Facebook locked down parts of its platform in April for privacy and security reasons. The policy change will apply retroactively and old apps that lost Find Friends or other functionality will be able to submit their app for review for regaining access.
The social media platform had previously enforced the policy selectively to hurt competitors that had used its Find Friends or viral distribution features. Several apps, including Vine, Voxer, MessageMe, Phhhoto, and others had been cut off from Facebook’s platform for too closely replicating its video, messaging or GIF creation tools. The policy felt pretty disingenuous given how aggressively Facebook replicates everyone else’s core functionality.