If you develop Facebook applications, or have a website you’d like to integrate with Facebook connect, you have undoubtedly seen at least some of the videos from the F8 Conference this weekend. By and large, I found the announcements impressive, the technology decisions smart, and the overall direction of the platform to be very exciting. Plenty of stories have been written about these initiatives and the impact they’ll have on the internet at large.
But, here’s a story that I haven’t seen written (or at least, hasn’t bubbled up in Hacker News): a lot of this stuff doesn’t actually work. All of the developers must know this. The forums have been down since launch. In some of the talks they admitted that although these features are live right now, they are not yet documented (ie. you can’t use them). And, there’s my favorite: they released the Like button for the web… which works everywhere except on Facebook.
The Like Button
With the announcement of the social plugins, I was immediately interested in getting the Like button up and running. This was, after all “just one line of HTML” per the presentations, so it should have been brain-dead simple. For the Like button (just one part of the Social Plugins inititative which is just one part of the overall announcements) I encountered the following interesting things:
- It was live on CNN.com… sometimes. Various times throughout the last few days the button was there, then it was broken and had an error screen where the people’s faces would be.
- If you use Facebook Connect already, you’re going to have to upgrade to the latest libraries to make use of the Like button. Not only is this upgrade undocumented, but where you used to find documentation for the old version, you now get redirected to the new documentation home page. So, even if you wanted to see how things used to work, you need to do some digging.
This search result, which used to take you to the documentation for this method, now redirects you to the home page of the new documentation.
You will eventually find that the new library has not reached feature-parity with the old one, and some of the features you used to rely on have not yet been implemented.
- The Like button itself does not work on Facebook applications. If you write a facebook app, or want to put some FBML on a Boxes tab, etc… the Like button does not work there.
<fb:like />produces nothing.
I thought the Facepile plugin made for a great pitch. Imagine going to a site and seeing your friends who are on it before you even sign up! A great way to increase conversions. The problem is, again, that it doesn’t actually work.
The Facebook developer forums were up earlier in the week, just after F8, but very few people could log into them. There were literally a handful of posts in the entire forum about all the new features that had just gone live. There was, if I recall, only one thread on Facepille. First post was that it didn’t work, and there were a few responses that were effectively “+1“.
Log in to sites around the web with your Facebook password. Pretty handy when it works – one less password to remember. When it doesn’t work? Pretty disastrous. Facebook Connect was up-and-down regularly throughout the last few days. It didn’t even work on the Facebook forums. Most of us were locked out (they had a backup signin mechanism, but that wasn’t working either). Just remember if you’re going to build a site and support Facebook Connect, having it as your sole authentication provider is a bad decision. Consider it a nice-to-have that might ease the friction of people signing up, but this is not a 99% SLA uptime universal login system.
Fixes Coming Soon?
I’m sure Facebook will get all of this cleaned up in time, I’m just surprised the degree to which they’ve been allowed to skate for 5 days without seeing stories pop up. When popular software companies put out sub-par products, the media slaughters them. The most popular site on the web is getting a pass.
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The like button is wacky too.. if I set show faces to on, it will show a ton of people that liked it, but if i set it to off, it only shows that 2 people liked it. And setting it to “button_count” just says “1”
the only widget that has been working okay is the recommendations one.. but still it only sometimes shows good friend data
Ahem, not to mention that it seems that many old APIs broke a day or so before f8, one of the most important developer tools (the API console) has disappeared, the “platform status” page is gone, and there seem to be no channels to get acknowledgement or such from the platform team, it is pretty frustrating..
The only thing that works is bugs.developers.facebook.com, where works means you can login and post bugs to it.
I also have a fan page with more than 1.3 million members. We advertise this within Facebook where we get about 10,000-15,000 new members each day. A few days ago, we saw the membership spike 25,000 in one day, with no obvious explanation. Since that happened, we have been losing more members (unsubscribes) than subscribes each hour despite spending $500/day in Facebook advertising…and of course, Facebook cannot be reached for help. We have so far spent more than $20,000 in advertising and we cannot get a hold of any kind of support from these people. We are a Facebook customer and support is terribly lacking.
The search API is also very flaky, giving different results depending on seemingly irrelevant circumstances.
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great article! ah! I thought it was just me..the ‘Like’ buttons were there and then they went away…even world domination suffers from gremlins 🙂
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I am glad someone is writing about this. I had tweeted about this a few days back – http://twitter.com/prateekdayal/status/12750982175
fracken facebook phreaks. track a tweet uppa yo twat, twits!
Who’d a thunk it? A Microsoft product with poor documentation and features that don’t work as advertised? I bet its not backward compatible either…
Stevo has done a great job for his stockholders, but bent the brand and his customer base over farther than the health insurance gestapo. Octopus is right, the Walmart of software…
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I haven’t used the new F8 stuff yet, but I did do a lot of Facebook development when they first released the Facebook Applications platform. We had the exact same kinds of issues. We kept saying that Facebook would figure it out in time. It’s interesting that things have not gotten better with F8. But then again, as a developer, if you’re upset with Facebook where are you going to go? It’s not like using MySpace instead is an option.
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