What Facebook’s Developer Announcement means: How Community can be Portable

Update: Several have suggested that this announcement is nothing new, (See initial announcement in 2006) and upon further investigation (and a quick email exchange with the Facebook team) confirms this to be right. What’s new is that it’s now easier to do than before. Regardless, the awareness of this feature is low within the marketplace, and everything I write in the following still stands true. Consider this awareness raising, and more of these types of distributed web tactics to continue in 2008.


My goal is to simply tech speak and boil it down to what it means for you, a web strategist. I’ll update this post as I learn more information.

What Facebook wrote
In their most recent announcement they gave a very technical explanation regarding the announcement:

“This JavaScript client library allows you to make Facebook API calls from any web site and makes it easy to create Ajax Facebook applications. Since the library does not require any server-side code on your server, you can now create a Facebook application that can be hosted on any web site that serves static HTML. An application that uses this client library should be registered as an iframe type. This applies to either iframe Facebook apps that users access through the Facebook web site or apps that users access directly on the app’s own web sites. Almost all Facebook APIs are supported. The exceptions are:”

Web Strategists’ Translation
This means that web owners can now embed existing Facebook applications easier than before. Now, in addition to being able to create an application/widget that will sit on Facebook alone, you can now easily embed it on your own website (in addition to leveraging the social features that Facebook offers).

[You can start to bring the Facebook community to your own corporate website, rather than directly developing on Facebook alone. This is a step towards the community now leaving the social network and moving to other locations]

This is really making the social features and widgets of Facebook portable. This is important as your web strategy is now distributed in many locations. For corporate web strategists, you’ll need to expand the scope of your plan to include how some of these widgets and applications could be embedded on your own microsites and corporate websites. This also means this is a ‘bridge’ to get active Facebook users closer to your corporate website.

Impacts to Google’s Open Social
If you’re not familiar, I’ve outlined what Open Social Means to your executives, read this first. Essentially, Google and it’s many partners wants to make it easy for widgets to move from one social network to another with little re-coding: portable and re-usable widgets. Unfortuantly, this has yet to be seen, and Facebook’s announcement allows widgets to be more portable, somewhat creeping in on Open Social’s intentions. In the long run, expect all of these companies to be working together, sharing API data, as those that don’t will be left out.

What you need to do:

Action: Do nothing at this point, let’s wait to see some case studies of how this is being implemented.

Plan: This doesn’t keep you from correctly planning, so continue to make your web strategy a distributed one, where content, applications, and people move from social network to social network, and to your own corporate website. Talk with your interactive agency, web developers, and social media gurus on what some of these possibilities could mean. Have weekly 30 minute brainstorming parties and see how this could be implemented and integrated within your current activities.

How to think of this: Plan on adding social features to your own corporate website so that visitors will interact with your own content, re-sort it, edit it, and mash it however they want. The future of content is amorphous and ubiquitous. (I’ve been saying this since 2005 and now we’re finally starting to see it happen)

  • http://www.jupiter-labs.com/ marc uhlig

    i don’t see where this is easier than using server side scripting, so imho nothing has changed, you could do the same things before. i agree with these posts here: http://www.allfacebook.com/2008/01/facebook-extends-platform-to-the-web/

  • http://hogsback.net Mario Olckers

    Thank you for clearing this up. The thing to do then is to wait and see what is done in the wild first?

    What will this mean for aggregating and managing all your profiles in one place? This seems to encourage a more ‘spread-out’ distributed approach?

  • http://www.twitter.com/annierodkins Annie Rodkins

    Jeremiah,

    can’t thank you enough for breaking this down in understandable terms. Saw the announcement last night but couldn’t really put my finger on why I found exciting.

    thanks!

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Marc

    I saw that too about server side scripting, I think the biggest change is that it’s easier to do than before.

    Also, I wasn’t aware of this feature (for server side) until now, so regardless, this needs more awareness and exposure.

    Mario, Distributed is the future.

    Annie, you’re welcome!

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  • Fil

    Jeremiah,

    It’s true that this move from facebook has the potential to bring the facebook community to the corporate websites. However, it’s the nature of facebook apps to bring entertainment and attract more users instead of doing something productive for corporates. There are close to 15,000 facebook apps out there and only a handful of them show some meaningful value. Many corporate sites may not find this feature beneficial to them at all.

  • http://www.voiceoftech.com/swhitley/ Shannon Whitley

    This part of the geek speak is key, “should be registered as an iframe type.”

    Many existing applications will not be able to utilize this library without significant changes. It’s not as simple as it sounds.

    This is great for new applications since it does present new distribution opportunities, and existing “iframe” applications could be changed quickly to utilize the new library.

  • http://webpl.us Brian Breslin

    Jeremiah,
    This announcement is getting confused I think. People seem to think they can now create canvases filled with api data on their own sites using this. Not really the case, this may make it more dynamic to build apps, but their api allowed much of this already, so its a matter of them trying to disseminate the info they have on users in a bit more flexible manner.

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  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Friends

    I’m emailing my contacts at Facebook to see if I can get to the bottom of this: Is this new or not, and what are the true impacts.

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  • http://www.skewedperspective.org Dean Browell

    This direction, for whatever it may mean in concrete ability, certainly starts to make the online community argument between Build vs. Join heavily skewed towards Join if so much could be leveraged off-Facebook. If Facebook continues to grow, why would most entities whose targets are the general consumer create a wholly independent network?

  • jeff

    thanks for the informative post jeremiah.

    dean, to answer your question to as why networks would create their own network. i believe that platforms such as facebook offer content distributors the ability to dynamically share content through the use of modern day technology. in this case it would be through client-side scripting through means such as API’s or iFrames. this method is much more efficient and offers content distributors the ability to spread samples of content much faster than simply hosting their own network. i’m not a follower of who’s who’s but i do know that there are more than a handful of people out there trying to build communities such as this. correct me if im wrong, but i believe this an ideal way to draft/utilize tools that work to better build.

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  • http://www.thoughtlabs.com Naveed Ihsanullah

    It is true that before the Facebook JavaScript announcement it was still possible to show the contents and interact with a Facebook application without having to go to facebook.com. In the past this could have been accomplished by writing code on the server that was somehow tied to the application. For example, CNN could have had code on their website that forced a Facebook login and told you who your Top Friends are and what Free Gifts you have.
    This new JavaScript platform makes the process much easier. No server side code is required at all. The press release is also an indication that Facebook wants developers to create applications that function from outside facebook.com. Note: You must still login in to both Facebook and the application in order for this to function. Facebook is still in control of their data.
    This JavaScript library also makes it possible now for any number of website to use a Facebook application as a widget on their site without the application creator’s permission. If you see the Free Gift widget on display at CNN.com it doesn’t take much work to ‘borrow‘ the JavaScript and put it on your own website. This can, obviously, be controlled but will require consideration by the application designer.
    The restriction of “IFrame only” will likely require that applications are redesigned to take advantage of this new feature of the Facebook platform. Many popular applications are not built as “IFrame” apps. It is our opinion here at ThoughtLabs, though, that any application that wishes to be portable across the Facebook platform and OpenSocial will have to go IFrame eventually.
    I will put together a more interactive example of this new Facebook Platform feature today. I will let you know what I find.

  • http://www.kinlane.com Kin Lane

    I look at Facebook as being in its infancy much as the Internet was in 95-99….

    It is maturing, we’ll see some real applications popup that bring some real value to the corporate IT department soon enough.

    Let’s get down to business.

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