The Facebook Platform

Facebook Developers

Well, facebook have certainly shaken things up a bit haven’t they. Almost totally opening up the API so developers can write applications that fit inside facebook itself! Utterly unheard of before, but potentially brilliant. Lets have a quick look at what you can do with all this new technology.

From the developer’s pages, developer.facebook.com they’ve created their own markup language, FBML. This allows for quick access to certain functions and their layout styles. Great stuff. You can also add in flash and mp3 files so people can listen to music. You can also add in an <iframe> element to display an off-site page. You can upload pictures from external applications and you can query the database using FQL (Facebook Query Language). This all sounds really great, but lets look at the limitations.

  • No Javascript – though not a surprise, some applications and advanced forms rely on it
  • No external stylesheets – boo and hiss to this one, all your styles must be in <style> tags
  • No AJAX – well, they provide automatic form submission, but that’s it. You can’t perform your own queries though the usual AJAX way
  • You can’t edit user details or post stuff to groups – still a bit disappointment as this limits the level of interaction with the user profile.

The big thing really is the ability to put iframes inside the canvas. From there you can do whatever you like inside the frame.

So, it all sounds good. Now it’s whether I can use it. Today I sent out an e-mail to all uni-sport.org members with a link to a survey on it (http://www.tigersurvey.com/survey.php?survey=2815) so I can get some feedback. One of the questions is about facebook and if people would want an extra feature, would it be better pictures, commenting, facebook integrates with profiles or uni-sport integrates with facebook in the way of an app. At the moment, I’m hoping a lot of people don’t go for the last option.

After some thought, I’m not sure if it would be possible to use facebook apps for such a complicated application as uni-sport. For it to work as it does at the moment, if a club asks for a web site, they will have to have their own unique facebook application. This is because of the team selection idea. If a group wanted to do team selection from within an application, only people in that group would be on the list. However, there is no way to make an application private between a group of people and AFAIK, no way to moderate who uses the application. There can’t be a global application as team selection wouldn’t work very well (it’d have to be select from people in network X who are members of group X, but that forces people to be in a group, which isn’t how it should work).

At the moment, Uni-sport is a glorified group page with team selection, match reports and a calendar. With team selection being at the heart of uni-sport, until private applications can be written, Uni-Sport will not be appearing as a facebook application.

Well, I’m glad that that decision has been made, now I can get back to my revision (lol)

Steve

Currently Listening to: David Ford
Currently Eating: Birthday Cake
Currently Reading: CSS Mastery and facebook documentation
Currently Watching: Lost season 3 finale. Amazing
Days left at University: 13

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Steve Workman

Steve Workman is the Head of Web Engineering at Yell. He is also an organiser for London Web Standards is an occasional public speaker, talking about web performance and web standards

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