Facebook’s recent F8 developer conference brought with it a slew of landmark changes from the social media giant. From anonymous login for third party apps to stability guarantees for third party developers, it seems as if Facebook is finally growing up.
Logging into third party apps using one’s Facebook account has now become a familiar process among smartphone users. However, there is a well-known sense of unease in doing so, as we’re never quite sure what information will bleed out on to the web.
To change that, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook users can now use their account to sign-in to third party services without having to also give their identity to the app or service. The new login option will appear as a black bar with white text, in contrast to the familiar ‘Facebook blue’ for normal logins.
This is a welcome move, but one has to wonder whether Facebook is shutting the stable door long after the identity horse bolted?
Another anxiety-ridden part of connecting third party services to Facebook is trying to keep track of what they will not-so-benevolently post on our behalf. Zuckerberg confirmed that users will now be able to set out “line by line” exactly what third party apps may and may not post.
As reported in ArsTechnica: “Apps can no longer require you to publish to all your friends in order to sign in to an app… Today, we want to do even more to put control and trust back in people’s hands. You can change line by line what you share with the app.”
This move is potentially more meaningful than the anonymous login to services that we’ve already spent years giving our identity to.
Given there have been many Facebook privacy overhauls before that have left users utterly overwhelmed with options, and we have yet to see Facebook’s implementation of this new procedure, we can only hope they have learned from past failings.
Stop breaking things
Facebook’s motto of “move fast and break things” was replaced during Zuckerberg’s keynote to the more conservative “Move fast with stable infra[structure]”. With this, Facebook is not only showing a priority to its users, but to the developer community too.
Zuckerberg made a public commitment that all major Facebook bugs would be fixed within 48 hours. Adding to the developer service level agreement, he also promised that all APIs would be given a two year compatibility guarantee. “This means that even if we change these APIs, we’re guaranteeing that we’re going to support them for at least two years,” Zuckerberg said.
This is good news for developers who create an app that communicates with Facebook (e.g. logins or sharing). When Facebook decides to change everything, third-party apps will have at least two years to make the required changes to maintain compatibility with Facebook.
In addition to focusing on users and developers, Facebook also showed off more about its “Audience Network” advertising platform. This platform allows marketers to sell their ads not only on the Facebook website, but also in mobile apps that have signed up to Facebook’s ad system.
This should be powerful tool for marketers, as Facebook has established an in-depth suite of tracking metrics for its advertising platform, and its much-vaunted social graph of who knows who and who is interested in what.
As an end user, you may start to see more Facebook-driven adverts in your free apps.
So what’s it all mean?
Of the three areas that Facebook addressed in this year’s conference, the developers seem to be getting the best deal, which is a good thing.
The privacy changes announced for users sound great on paper, but we’re going to have to wait and see what the implementation is like. As stated above, actually administering all those privacy settings may be more trouble than they’re worth for your average user – but the important thing is that those options are there at all, given Facebook’s track record.
As for the advertising platform, this all depends how you feel about targeted adverts. If you hate being tracked, you’ll hate them. However, if you figure if you have to see adverts, they may as well be useful, then you might even be glad.