Facebook Applications: The Basics in Java

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1 Facebook Applications: The Basics
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More than 50 translations are available on the site, with more than 50 in development More than 70 percent of Facebook users are located outside the United States
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More than 1,000,000 developers and entrepreneurs from more than 180 countries More than 350,000 applications are currently available from the Facebook Application Directory More than 5,000 applications have more than 10,000 or more monthly active users Every month, more than 70 percent of Facebook users engage with Platform applications
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The Facebook ecosystem is frequently referred to in terms of a social graph In this graph, each Facebook user represents a node, and that user s friend relationships represent the edges between these nodesAll these nodes and edges together comprise the social graph Scientists have studied social graphs for decades, and there is a wealth of available information about them One of the most important hypotheses of social networks, especially as they relate to Facebook, is the small world phenomenon the basis for the well-known phrase six degrees of separation which states that there are generally only a few social relationships separating any two arbitrary people in the worldThe power of this idea can be clearly seen when you look at this in terms of Facebook s social graph of 250 million nodesThe potential for a single Facebook user to interact with any other in Facebook s closed system is much greater than it would be in an open environment, like the web Facebook s Platform gives you direct access to its social graph and the data contained within it, so it s no surprise that the interest in creating Facebook applications has exploded This book takes you through the necessary steps to get your application built in the best way possible to maximize your chances of getting your application to spread successfully
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So, you use FacebookYou understand how it works Perhaps you post photos, comment on your friends Walls, update your status, and install applications But, where can an application actually integrate into Facebook s interface This section provides those answers Some of these integration points are actually hosted on Facebook s servers, and some are hosted on the application s servers, such as an application s profile presenceThe parts of an application that are hosted on your own servers are known as canvas pages It s important to realize that there are important restrictions placed on the Facebook-hosted portions of an applicationWe overview the integration points in this chapter and give more detailed descriptions in Part II, Developing Applications
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The Facebook profile is the main entry point for Facebook usersTo be statistically valid, social graphs require that their nodes (or users) are unique, and Facebook ensures this or at least mitigates it in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities by requiring that each account be backed by a single physical person Each account is supposed to represent a user s real-world identityThe Profile is where that identity is displayed for a given user Applications can integrate with Facebook in multiple locations within its user interface, including the profileAs far as the Facebook Profile goes, there are several places applications can integrate, which are discussed in the following sections Profile Boxes A user s profile is comprised of many sections:
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The Wall and Info tabs share a common left column of application profile boxes The Boxes tab hosts two columns of application profile boxes The Application tabs are full-screen-width application profile boxes The Feed Wall lists activities carried out on Facebook by a user and his friends
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In Facebook, you can reach the profile by clicking the Profile link at the top of any page while you re logged inThe user can allow an application to display a box on the left side of his profile when the Wall or Info tab is selected, or he can allow a box to be placed on his Boxes tabAt least one application must be installed to have the Boxes tab appear on the profileThe size of these boxes is limited by both height and width, if they are placed on the Wall or Info tabs and by width on the Boxes tab Note that an application cannot place anything on a user s profile without his express permission (This is covered in 8, Updating the Profile ) Wall, Info, and Boxes Tabs The Wall and Info tabs share a common left navigation area, which is shown in Figure 11 A user can place up to five application profile boxes in this region, and they all must be placed below the Friends sectionThese boxes are limited in both width and height, so the content they display is crucial: It needs to get users attention, encourage interaction, and provide a call to action (to get new users to install the application, for example) all within a small space Boxes can be placed on the left side of a user s profile by using a special tag that Facebook providesThis tag displays an Add to Profile button to encourage users to install a profile box for an applicationThis is the only direct means for an application to install a profile box directly to the Wall and Info tabs Profile boxes can also be relocated here from the Boxes tab The Boxes tab is made up of two columns: a wide one on the left and a narrow one on the rightThere is no limit to their height, but there are width limits for each column Users can drag profile boxes from one side to the other, so applications need to handle being rendered well in each or provide a message stating that they cannot be shown in a
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