Facebook is releasing a web server technology as open source because it wants to make it easier for developers to create applications that let users post status updates in real time, a functionality popularised by Twitter.

The web server framework that Facebook will offer as open source is called Tornado, was written in the Python language and is designed for quickly processing thousands of simultaneous connections, the company said.

"Tornado is a core piece of infrastructure that powers FriendFeed's real-time functionality, which we plan to actively maintain. While Tornado is similar to existing Web-frameworks in Python ... it focuses on speed and handling large amounts of simultaneous traffic," wrote David Recordon, Facebook's open programs manager, in the Facebook Developer blog.

"We believe in releasing generically useful infrastructure components as open source... as a way to increase innovation across the web," he added.

Twitter is the best-known application for people to post real-time updates on their thoughts, status and whereabouts, and Facebook has been tweaking its site to tap into this trend.

For example, Facebook revamped its profiles to make the stream of friend notifications and status updates more prominent. It also added an option to let members display this stream and other parts of their profiles more broadly to everyone on Facebook, not just to hand-picked friends and members on mutual Facebook networks.

Recognising that the large network of developers who build applications for Facebook is also interested in creating applications for real-time updates, Facebook in April released its Open Stream API. This API lets developers build applications that access these Facebook notifications and help users manage them.