Fresh from its acquisition by Facebook last month, Face.com is closing down its facial recognition APIs over the next 30 days. While such a move isn’t that surprising, third-party developers may well have reason to be upset seeing as just weeks ago the company said that it would continue to support them.

In an email sent out to developers who utilize the APIs, the company says:

“We’re excited to move forward to work with all our friends at Facebook. Part of this process includes closing down other products and services that we are no longer able to support, and this includes the Face.com developers API.”

This feels like a stark contrast the statement issued by Face.com on 18 June, when the Facebook deal was announced. Then, the official line was “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.”

It’s fair to assume that today’s announcement wasn’t quite the ‘new development’ that third party developers were hoping for. In its email to developers, shared with us by Israel’s Newsgeek, who have reported the story in Hebrew, Face.com says that “tens of thousands of engineers have signed up for developer tokens to build face recognition products we could never have thought of ourselves,” since the API launched in 2010.

The future of those products suddenly looks shaky – good quality facial recognition APIs don’t just fall off trees. On Hacker News, there are calls for an open source alternative, while developers are venting their frustration on Twitter.

 

 

 

A facial recognition API just doesn’t feel like something Facebook would be interested in offering, and the technology seems far more likely to be put to use behind the scenes to power its own services (even if that hasn’t gone so well for the company in the past). Facebook licensed Face.com technology prior to the acquistion and was its biggest customer. Third-party developers here are collateral damage in Facebook’s bid to bolster its own technological arsenal. Indeed, on its homepage, Face.com also says that its own Facebook face recognition iPhone app, Klik has been removed from the App Store.

That said, there is a glimmer of hope, in its email to developers, Face.com says: “Interacting with and learning from the developer community has always been one of the best parts of working at Face. We’re hoping to interact with you in the future as part of Facebook’s developer network, and we want to thank you for your support and for using our services.”

It also appears that Face.com may be willing to be flexible with its shutdown, if a tweet from Windows Phone developer James Mundy is to be believed.

UPDATE: Here’s one API already being pitched as a Face.com alternative, courtesy of Lambda Labs, although it is yet to emerge from private beta.

Image credit: Pond 5