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Face.com's Acquisition: Good For Facebook, Not So Much For Broader Facial Recognition Industry Ambitions

Back in mid-April, I devoted a news writeup to the latest developments at facial recognition algorithm developer Face.com, focusing in particular on the API that the company provided for third-party developer leverage, often free of charge. Those bountiful-technology days, unfortunately, have come and gone.

A month ago, Facebook decided to acquire Face.com for an unannounced pricetag, in spite of a previously undisclosed Klik application vulnerability that could have (but apparently didn't) allowed attacker hijack of users' Facebook and Twitter accounts. Facebook isn't saying what it'll use the Face.com technology for, but I'd wager that it'll be employed for automatic tagging of Facebook account holders' identities in uploaded photos, thereby reminiscent of Google's last-summer purchase of PittPatt (Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition).

With respect to Face.com's APIs, the initial post-acquisition news was seemingly stay-the-course from a developer partner standpoint. In the blog post announcing the news, CEO Gil Hirsch commented:

Now, lots of developers use Face.com technology to power various apps and make wonderful products.  We love you guys, and the plan is to continue to support our developer community.  If there are new developments you can expect to hear from us here, on the developer blog, and through our developer newsletter.

Just three weeks later, however, a "new development" indeed emerged, one contrary to the previously stated API intention. Visit the company's home page, and here's what you'll now find:

We're working with Face.com developers to transition as we wind down support for our APIs.

TechCrunch thinks that Facebook will eventually resurrect the Face.com API. I'm not so sure of that. Nonetheless, the situation has certainly left developers in a near-term lurch. As such, I can't disagree with GigaOm's conclusion: "Don’t use that open API — it could be a trap!"

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