Facebook Connect: Why and how to use it on your website

Back in July (when the weather was a little sunny and not bitterly cold) i wrote a blog post about using your Facebook profile on Digg. Just to recap, it was regarding the rather great ability to use your Facebook profile to login to Digg without registering an entire new Digg account, on top of that it also allows Digg to post information back to your wall as a news feed to let all your friends know what you have been Digging.

Well after allowing websites like Digg, and Stumbleupon to use Facebook connect it seems that the big FB are set to allow any website to use Facebook Connect on November the 30th and you should be quickly scurrying to work out how you are going to incorporate it into your site. Here’s why and how…

Firstly. The Why?

There are really three major reasons why you should be using Facebook connect on your website, and i am sure that as the platform progresses, there will become many many more.

  1. Users can use their existing Facebook profiles to login to your site:
    Whilst many people may think that not having users register with you could damage your site, this probably will not be the case at all. I am sure there has been many a time that you or I have come to a website for some information only to find that you have to go through a long registration process to get the information you want. I can certainly say that i have hit the back button and got the info from elsewhere. With Facebook connect your users can simply hit the Facebook login button, find the information they want, and stay on your site.
  2. You get information back about the user:
    Amongst other things, Facebook can tell you how many of the user’s friends are already members of your site. You can put a link somewhere that says, “Three of your friends already use the site – invite them to connect.” This can dramatically increase engagement of your existing users by drawing them back to your site. Not only this you can show the friends activity on a page within your site, so that users have yet another reason to return.
    Facebook also let you pull certain information about the user such as basic profile info, avatar image etc, this can save you space on your server by hosting everything in a centralised location.
  3. You get to advertise on Facebook for free:
    Whenever a user on your site does an action, you can post this information onto their wall. Obviously i don’t need to tell you how valuable this is, as not only does it appear in the news feed it also encourages their friends to click through onto your site and then we are back to point number 1.

Stumble reviews posting back to Facebook

You can see a great example of how Facebook Connect is working on the Facebook Example Site

Secondly. The How?

The first thing to do is go and check out the Facebook Wiki on The Anatomy of a Facebook Connect Site then bring yourself back here, and we’ll go through a few steps incase your still unsure of how to implement it.

Back already? Gee you are a fast reader, ok now take a look at the image below to get an idea about how Facebook Connect works in the background…

So the image above explains how it all works, but how do you put it into your site?

  1. Download the sample code that is provided by Facebook – This is the code used for their example site and will be a great help.
  2. The code above will show you all the little neat tricks of Facebook, such as the friends selector, group links, events links, that you can implement to allow users to effectively share your site on Facebook
  3. You need to go into Facebook and enable the Developers application, if you can’t find it simply do a search for Developers on the Facebook search bar.
  4. Set up your application using the instructions found in the Facebook wiki
  5. Insert your application API key into the test code that you downloaded above and visit your demo site. You should now see the Facebook connect login button which will allow you to login using your details.

Finally, just go and read everything on the developers wiki to get yourself up to speed with other features, and then you can start to look to implement the sections of code into your site. Start of by getting the login button working, then by getting some information back from FB about the user. Once you have mastered that you can then get onto the good stuff like writing back to users walls, and allowing them to invite friends to your site.

There is no doubt in my mind that Facebook connect will be a massive step forwarding in bringing around a centralised way of logging into websites and getting meaningful information about your users. From a search marketing perspective you can gain literally hundreds of new visitors a day to your site. If you have a login form then you should be looking at this now.

I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on Facebook Connect, and if you think you will be implementing it on your site.

Facebook bring back captcha’s for messaging

I was just sending my friend some driving directions to my house though the Facebook messaging system, and was surprised to see that when i hit send i was asked to put in a Captcha. I know that Facebook used to make you put in a captcha for adding friends until you registered your mobile phone. Obviously i have been fully registered on the site for a while now and haven’t seen a captcha on the site for ages.

There has been a lot of messaging spam flying about Facebook recently so it doesn’t surprise me that they have brought back captcha’s, and you don’t have to put on in for every message it sends. I tried sending 10 different messages to 10 different people and was only asked to input the captcha three times so its not that bad.

Although it is a annoying to have to put in a captcha, it should cut the spam sending down dramatically, so i think i can live with it 🙂

FriendSync: sync your iPhone contact photos with Facebook

Edit: The new Facebook for iPhone application no does friend syncing, you can check out the features in my new Facebook sync contacts post.

I just saw a new download for an application on the iTunes app store that caught my eye and decided to spend £1 to see what it was like… that application was called FriendSync and it offers you a way of Sync your friends pictures into your phonebook contacts.

None of my friends have thier picture in my iPhone because i hate them, no not really, basically i just couldn’t be bothered to take a picture of them all and put it into the phone. I assumed that this application would make it super easy for me to do and i was kinda right.

The application has a tendency to crash, infact i haven’t been able to use it once without it crashing. Also the application seems to have a rather large problem with actually matching up your contact list with your friends on Facebook. I am sure that this is due to the fact that i don’t always use the First name > Last name convention of putting people in my contacts. It seems to me that even if the person isn’t an exact match then i should be given the option of ‘closest’ matches to choose from.

Instead of that option i have to click through each person, and then type there name into the search bar, find them in the application results and then assign the picture. The other thing that is bugging me is i am sure the results aren’t in alphabetical order and some people ‘hide’ below the qwerty keyboard making it hard to select them.

It’s not all doom and gloom though because this application does still make it a LOT easier to assign pictures to people, it just needs some tweaks.

The thing that impressed me the most though was how Facebook handle application asking for your details to ‘login’. They cleverly ask you to login through the application browser (thus no info is sent to the application) and then a key is generated. This key is then put into the application which allows it to access certain things such as friends list etc. This means that no one can get access to your username and password.

The more i use anything to do with Facebook the more i am impressed with the fact that they have thought of just about everything when it comes to thrid parties and applications.

So in closing if you want to add photos to your contacts then this application is cool. It may only get a small percentage of the user’s pictures correct the first time but after you have added them all in it will remeber and update thier pictures when they update them on Facebook.

The developer of FriendSync contacted me a couple of days after writing this post asking for my feedback in finding some issues. I have been in contact with him since that time and i can assure everyone that he is working hard on fixing the issues and has sent an update to Apple, the fixes/features include…

Bug Fixes:

  • Fixed: Crashes due to a large number of contacts and/or Facebook friends.
  • Fixed: Blank images assigned to contacts.


  • Faster Syncing.  Thumbnail images are now downloaded on-the-fly and cached, resulting in faster syncing.
  • Faster Manual Matching.  Default search results are displayed based on a contact’s name when manually searching for a Facebook friend.

Known Issues:
MobileMe and Exchange users who sync their contacts.  After FriendSync sets a contact’s image, MobileMe and Exchange revert the image to the original state.  We have a support ticket open with Apple regarding this issue and will provide an update when it’s resolved.

The developer has also agreed to answer some question about developing on the iPhone which i will put on the blog in around a week or so. I think once these changes get approved then this application could really take off.

You can find more info on the FriendSync Home Page

Facebook stalking made easier

Since using the new version of Facebook i have noticed that they are still rolling a few things out here and there, and also tweaking a few bits. I must admit that i am loving the new style so much better than the old one, and yes there are a ton more options too. My only worry is for application developers whose boxes are now cast out to a completely different page on a users profile, but that’s another post for the future.

So instead of me just banging on about nothing i’ll get to the point of this post. I was playing around with the News Feed Preferences section of Facebook and i noticed (i am sure it wasn’t there before) that you can now add individuals that you want to see more or less off.

I think this is a pretty awesome idea for two reasons. 1) Unlike the rest of the worlds freaks, when i split up with a girl i don’t really want to know anything about what she is up to (what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you), and i also don’t want to remove her as a friend as i always do the whole “still want to be friends thing”. So what better way to shield a broken heart than by adding her to the “see less of this person list”.

Now you can obviously flip that round and do a bit of auto stalking, which brings me to number 2). Can’t be bothered to keep refreshing your victims (err potential lovers) page to see if they have finally gotten out of that relationship with the guy who is not only better looking than you, but also actually knows how to approach women? Then all you do is whack the relationship status bar up and type her name into the “show more of this person” box and your good to go. All the info you need right on your feed page.

So there you go, in true Chewie fashion i got bored halfway through writting this so i come to a quick close. I was looking for this function a while back and glad its finally here, i’ll let you decide for which reason 🙂

Update: I have written a newer blog post which identifies that these news preferences no longer work

Use your Facebook Profile on Digg

Facebook have recently been holding a conference in the States called F8, it is basically a conference for Facebook developers to attend to see what the big FB are doing over the next year on their development platform, one of the major things to come out about using the Facebook connect system is that developers will be able to use the system for their applications on the iPhone. The other big announcement comes from the Digg blog, which tells us that Facebook users will now be able to login to Digg and vote on stories using their Facebook profile credentials. The really cool thing about this is that as you Digg stories they get published to your mini feed.

I think that this could really help diversify the power users who manage to always get their stories to the front page of Digg. If Digg can gain a ton more exposure to the general public (as opposed to marketers and people in the tech industry) then i am sure that the kind of stories making the front page will change. Not only that, if 100 of my friends finally understand what Digg is and then see that i have posted/voted on a story then they may even Digg it up.

I really do hope that Digg will allow users to combine thier current Digg accounts in the Facebook profile as it is something that really appeals to me, however at this time the blog doesn’t say anything about that.

If you are unsure exactly what Facebook connect is then basically… Through Facebook Connect members can use their Facebook identities across the Web–profile photos, names, photos, friends, groups, events, and other information. Facebook profile content, for example, could appear on other social sites, and Facebook event listings could theoretically connect with external event and invitation services. Flickr and Yelp are two such websites using Facebook connect and can post information onto users walls.