People now spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook and any change to its core infrastructure, user interface or tool-set sends out warning signals into the web designer and developer communities often tasked with integrating the powerful social network into existing websites.
This includes the announcement that Facebook made several months ago to deprecate the popular custom FBML app on March 11, 2011, which allowed users to customize their business and fan pages with html-like content.
It has been replaced with something called iFrame applications that essentially allow a designer or developer to frame an existing external web page on a Facebook tab.
“On March 11, 2011, you will no longer be able to create new FBML apps and Pages will no longer be able to add the Static FBML app,” said Facebook.
This strategic move dovetails with the powerful emerging HTML 5 standard which seeks to reduce the need for using proprietary technologies such as Adobe Flash, for example, to play video on a web page.
By allowing designers and developers to quickly re-use existing html code on Facebook pages they speed up integration across websites and other devices such as Smartphones.
When Facebook threw the iFrame switch, many mistakenly thought their legacy FBML pages would cease to function. However, this is not the case.
While new FBML apps will not be supported going forward, previous apps built in the Facebook Markup Language will continue to function, probably without incident.
“While all existing apps on Pages using FBML or the Static FBML app will continue to work, we strongly recommend that these apps transition to iFrames as soon as possible. Lastly, we want to be clear that our deprecation of FBML does not impact XFBML, such as the tags that support social plugins,” said Facebook.
If you are itching to create your first iFrame app, check out this video tutorial on HubSpot Blog that breaks down the procedure in clear steps.
While the tutorial helps you get your feet wet you should also play close attention to some niggling issues, which may crop up while you attempt to frame your first web page on Facebook.
This includes a pesky 405 error that sometimes appears when you try to frame a static HTML page on your Facebook tab. It’s related to a HTTP Post For Canvas directive outlined on the Facebook Developer page.
One quick way around this error is to rename your page from .HTML to a .PHP or .ASP depending on which flavor of OS your web host is using.
In a nutshell, the error may be result upon loading an iFrame because Facebook initiates a POST to the index page in order to pass some data back to the app. Some servers may not allow a POST to a file with the .HTML extension.
While HTML iFrames in themselves are nothing new to web designers or web developers, the way they are handled in Facebook is still a work in progress.
Both parties need to keep a careful eye on the emerging technology trends in Facebook as they directly influence the direction of web development on traditional websites.
More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook, including over 80 of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and over half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites.
There may come a point in time when developing a site for Facebook may become the overriding objective for a company interested in deploying or extending its online presence. Facebook is here to stay.
Guest Blogger: Jason Stevens from jason-stevens.com / Freelance web developer, tech writer and follower of cloud computing trends. Follow him on Twitter @_jason_stevens_
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