Facebook’s New Open Graph API

    Louis Simoneau
    Louis Simoneau

    Last week at its f8 developers’ conference, Facebook announced some significant updates to its API. You may already have heard about this, but basically it boils down to this: every page on the Internet is now a Facebook fan page. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but the core of it is true; any page can now have a “Like” button, which will cause it to behave like a Facebook fan page. When a visitor clicks that button, your page will show up in the activity stream on Facebook without any further action on their part. How is this witchcraft accomplished?

    Your page will have a few meta tags in its head, which describe it using Facebook’s new Open Graph protocol. The required bits of metadata are title, type, url, site_name, and image, with a few additional optional ones. Thanks to these, the Like button figures out how to display your site in the user’s Facebook news feed, categorize it, and link back to it. The Open Graph protocol is nicely and clearly detailed on Facebook’s Documentation site.

    As with a regular Facebook fan page, if you link that Like button to your Facebook account, you then gain the ability to message all the people who’ve liked your page.

    This new functionality comes with a new Graph API for developers to read and write Facebook data, and a few new “social plugins” for your site to interact with Facebook.

    These changes make it extremely easy for developers make their pages more shareable without having to devote resources to creating a separate Facebook fan page that then needs to be updated. This is even more significant when it comes to sites that contain hundreds or thousands of pages they’d like Facebook users to be able to share. The example given on the Facebook development blog is imdb.com, which has a Like button for each movie and actor page.

    On the flip side, some might see these developments as Facebook wanting its users to consider the entire Internet as part of Facebook. As a web designer or developer, how do you see this change? Will you rush to enable all your site’s pages with Facebook’s Open Graph? Or is this just another play by Facebook to control even more of users’ internet lives?