Sunday In the Sandbox with Facebook Connect

Having been told by Tonia that I would have to provide useful content for this site, rather than just pronouncing from on high, I spent the Sabbath playing around with Facebook Connect (website | Tonia’s post,) to see whether I could extract something useful from it.  The idea of Facebook Connect is this:

  • We put a widget on our site that invites people to “connect” with the site using their Facebook profile.
  • Once someone has connected with our site…
    • We can message him via Facebook.
    • We can post one-liners to his wall.
    • He can invite his friends to join him on the site.

This sounds like a great way for sites like ours to get social quickly.  I say “sounds like” because it soon became apparent that Facebook Connect is not quite ready for prime time. Caveat about what follows: my experience with Facebook application development is next to nil, though I am familiar with the technologies (PHP, Javascript, Ajax) involved.

Here’s what I found out:

  • You’ll probably have to hire a Facebook developer to implement this on your site.  As far as I’m aware, Facebook provides no plug and play widget — you’ve got to have some bespoke code.  Lucky for you, there are 670,000 great developers out there.  Take your pick.
  • The technical documentation is lacking.
  • Most importantly, I don’t think Facebook has quite figured out the underlying business logic of what a user “connecting” to a site enables the site to do with the user.  The “policies” page is full of coming soons.  This means that they’re pushing the product out before it’s baked.

For now I’m going with Google.  More later…