Facebook API tinkering

As part of a project I’m possibly going to be working on I started delving into the API for facebook and realised that there are lots of interesting things that can be done with it and all very easily too. Ideas immediately sprang into my head about little widgets that I could add to this site and indeed other sites I run. There is good documentation in the devlopers section of facebook and a handy API web query form to allow you to test API functions and see their output without even opening your text editor or IDE. Sadly though there are two main stumbling blocks with it all as I see it.

Firstly you have to give your consent to allow your details to be used by API developers. Now this might seem good on a privacy level but seeing as its only the people who could view your details if they were logged into facebook who can see them in the API application its a little pointless, and in fact is a little bit restrictive on those who want to take full advantage of viewing thier friends using a more functional interface – how do you easily let your friends know that the fact they haven’t enabled API access means you can’t use this cool new feature?

Secondly you have to be logged into facebook. Now I know why they’ve done this, in fact its almost essential for the security of users data, but it results in some rather annoying restrictions. For example you can’t use the API on a site without a user on that site knowing it links to facebook (simply because they have to login). Further it means that say I wanted to use my login details to broadcast my info from facebook on my own site using the API, I wouldn’t be able to do it (at least not in real time anyway) because the visiting user would need to be the one logged in and then only their details, not mine, would be the “self” as it were set of data. This seems a little flawed to me but there we go.

This doesn’t all mean however that a lot of useful stuff cannot come out of the use of facebooks API. The project I may well be starting soon has the potential to be very handy indeed and will require a minimum of coding work compared with something that was written from scratch. If you are a developer who uses or who has friends on facebook, I’d highly recommend checking out the facebook developers area and having a gander.


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