We’re always talking about how Facebook did one thing or another to replicate functionality from Twitter, but we've come to expect that; it makes sense that the most popular social networking site on the Internet (now with 300 million users worldwide) would ensure its top placement by borrowing features from the younger startups, and thus, eclipsing their services.
But rarely do we explicitly see the #1 social site on the Web borrow some ideas from the #1 search site.
Well, yesterday Facebook officially launched a service called Facebook Prototypes, a playground or sandbox of sort for Facebook developers that’s being likened to Google’s very own Google Labs.
“Facebook's engineers thrive on innovation and experimentation,” explains product designer Lee Byron. “We're encouraged to work on projects that inspire us and build on new ideas, but not all of these features and improvements wind up launching on the site. In some instances, they're not quite ready for prime time, are a bit esoteric or don't quite fit.”
Facebook Prototypes will be the place for all those features that “don’t quite fit.” That is, it will be the home for unfinished, buggy, and/or untested.
And it will likely be the origin of some of the coolest new innovations for Facebook’s site.
Already, the application directory lists a whole bunch of different experiments built by Facebook engineers—anything from Desktop Notifications (which we reviewed last week) to Enhanced Event Emails to a Photo Tag Search plugin.
For the disenchanted, don’t think that this is just a place for the lesser worthy and unnotable applications to congregate. As we all know, some of today’s most basic Google services—Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Maps, Google Reader—all started out as small test programs in Google Labs.
Facebook users should have a good time exploring the creative output of Facebook’s finest.