Details on Facebook’s Plans to Allow Iframe Page Tab Apps, FBML Deprecation

Yesterday, the Facebook Developers Blog announced that Page tab applications can now be built and implemented using iframes, and FBML and FBJS will be deprecated starting March 11, 2011. Iframes will allow developers to build both canvas and tab applications on the same programming model, and integrate social plugins and the Graph API into tab apps.

Facebook announced the shift from FMBL to iframes in August, slated migration for Q4 2010, then delayed it until Q1 2011. In the meantime, some developers created what were meant to be Page tab application in iframes. Since they couldn’t integrate them before, they had to use an FBML landing tab that linked away from the Page to the iframe canvas app.

Now, developers can go into the Page Tab settings of the Developer app and change the Page Tab Type from FBML to iframe. The Page’s admin will still have to go into the Edit Page admin interface and choose to add the iframe Page tab app.

Facebook has updated its signed_request parameter for securely communicating the identity of users who visit tab apps. When users browse to a tab app, the app will receive

“the signed_request  parameter with one additional parameter, page, a JSON array which contains the ‘id’ of the Facebook Page your Tab is hosted withina boolean (‘liked’) indicating whether or not a user has liked the Page, and a boolean (‘admin’) indicating whether or not the user is an ‘admin’ of the Page along with the user info array. Your application will also receive a string parameter called app_data as part of signed_request if an app_data parameter was set in the original query string in the URL your tab is loaded on.”

This string can be used to show the user customized content. Here is an example of an updated signed_request:

{
   "algorithm":"HMAC-SHA256",
   "expires":1297328400,
   "issued_at":1297322606,
   "oauth_token":"OAUTH_TOKEN",
   "app_data":"any_string_here",
   "page":{
      "id":119132324783475,
      "liked":true,
      "admin":true
   },
   "user":{
      "country":"us",
      "locale":"en_US"
   },
   "user_id":"USER_ID"
}

Developers will also be able to include an age object in the user JSON object encoded in the signed_request. This object will be a minimum and maximum age the user must be between in order to access the application. This will not give developers access to a user’s specific age.

Applications that include content specified in Facebook’s alcohol guidelines will have to use the age object to prohibit underaged users from gaining access, or risk violating Facebook’s alcohol policy. Previously, FMBL tags had to be used to exclude underage users.

The option to integrate social plugins and the Graph API opens new potential for making more social Page tab apps. Developers could include Like buttons for specific pieces of content to create broadcast channels to subsets of their users. Social game developers have had some success with implementing the Like button on their canvas app to let users share specific pieces of content with friends.

The Comments plugin will offer another way for users to leave feedback in addition to the wall and discussion board. It could also help apps grow, since comments can be posted to a user’s wall. The Facepile could be used to show friends who’ve used the tab app, or the Recommendations and Activity Feed plugins could suggest what users should do first within a tab.

FMBL Deprecations and the Developer Roadmap

Starting March 11th, 2011, developers won’t be able to build new FMBL apps, and Pages won’t be able to add static FBML apps as Page tabs. All existing FMBL tab and apps will continue to function, and will still be able to be edited for the immediate future. However, it seems that Facebook will eventually remove FBML entirely.

XFBML tags that support social plugins will not be deprecated, and will continue to function normally.

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Leave a Reply

20 Responses to “Details on Facebook’s Plans to Allow Iframe Page Tab Apps, FBML Deprecation”

  1. Louis says:

    Once upon a time FBML was the best thing since sliced bread and now it is being depracated (I have grown to hate this word). As a non-developer who owns a Facebook App and who therefore has to pay a developer every time Facebook makes breaking changes to its platform, I am increasingly irritated by the constant changes. Is his normal for a platform? I don’t see the same happening with Android or iOS. It’s as if Facebook assumes that every app owner is a developer or has developers as employees ready to make these changes on their whim.

    One thing is for sure, I will never again build anything on the Facebook platform.

  2. sergio says:

    hi guys,thank for the info…but i don’t understand where should i put the string of the algorithm.
    in the static fbml or in the app developers?
    thnx
    sergio

  3. Jonathan says:

    FINALLY!!!! The location bug has taken forever to fix. Now we can finally deliver targeted advertising based on user parameters. WOOHOO!!!

  4. susan says:

    Hi! Thank you for your wonderful in depth reporting. So glad to have found your site – helping all of us to learn so much. Just shared the word and hope it’ll help others too.

    Question: Is it: FBML apps or FMBL apps? I’m busy working on my profession of graphic design and party favors, I don’t do much of the background developer work, but am so interested in much of this. So I wanted to get this right.

    Thank you again!

    Susan

  5. A round up of this weeks best social media stories, videos and thinkers says:

    [...] millions of Facebook pages. One area that wasn’t covered that extensively was the change from FBML code to iFrames which really has changed the Facebook landscape and what businesses can do [...]

  6. David F. Carr says:

    WordPress users can take advantage of this utility http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/facebook-tab-manager/ to create and edit content targeted at a Facebook page tab. In many ways, this is easier than an FBML tab, at least for WordPress users.

    By itself, this plugin doesn’t do anything fancy in terms of XFBML or JavaScript SDK integration. But it does make it fairly easy to create a landing tab that can serve as a landing page for Facebook ads or let you plug a custom contact form into Facebook.

  7. Digging Deeper into Facebook Pages: 11 Things You Need to Know says:

    [...] as your default, though you can still create a custom tab using either FBML or iFrames. But note: Facebook has announced that iFrames is now the preferable method, and FBML will begin to be phased out as of March [...]

  8. Josh Constine says:

    @Susan: FBML – Facebook Markup Language

  9. Elizabeth says:

    As a developer it is very discouraging to see how often Facebook changes the rules. You cannot even search and find answers about how to implement a feature, as the feature, or way it is implemented has changed yet again!#@!

    I just figured out the FBML tabs and now they are going away. It seems to me that the FB developers need to study “best practices” for businesses and get their act together.

    My biggest complaint is the Admin feature of the page having only one level of authority. With all the screw ups that FB makes, I can see my profile or pages getting deleted by accident. Yeah, I really want someone else to have full access to my business page on FB!? Why don’t they study WordPress to get an idea of how to set up administration rights? I see a real lack of vision with this company. They see all the possibilities and cannot see the details to make it happen the right way. FB is a house of cards right now.

  10. Josh Constine says:

    @Elizabeth: Facebook just implemented an access control module for applications, so it’s possible one will eventually be released for Pages.

  11. andy says:

    So this may be a silly question… but do I need to create a whole new app. (this whole process) for every page/tab I want to create?
    I manage several pages, and am just looking for a solution.

  12. Josh Constine says:

    @Andy: In some cases, you can simply switch the setting in the Developers app to iframe

  13. gayatri says:

    hello,
    i want to know if IFRAME Page Tabs can be country specific. We have a global page, with local tabs, and we’re wondering how to go about it now.

    thanks a ton
    gayatri

  14. Peter says:

    FBML will depreciate in some time, so its better to plan all apps in Iframe from the very beggining

  15. Jason Padvorac says:

    In case anyone is interested, I just coded up an alternative to Static FBML. I won’t be deprecating it any time soon. :)

    Also, it uses the new iframe tab, so you can use any HTML / JavaScript / Flash / whatever you want.

    http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=190322544333196&sk=app_190322544333196

  16. Dispelling The Myths Of Facebook Privacy And Security says:

    [...] make matters worse, Facebook recently announced that they will now allow iframes within page tab applications.  This means that a malicious developer can easily do things like redirect users to malicious web [...]

  17. Link Mix. | Marta Spendowska • Design says:

    [...] Starting March 11th, 2011, developers won’t be able to build new FMBL apps, and Pages won’t be able to add static FBML apps as Page tabs (iFrames and FBML). [...]

  18. Deprecation of FMBL Page Apps and POST for Canvas Deadlines Approach | Home says:

    [...] in August, Friday’s shift to from FBML to iframe apps was planned to let Page admins offer richer functionality without forcing users to leave their [...]

  19. Facebook Upgrades are a big plus to business | Tek Lance Group says:

    [...] March 11 businesses will no longer be able to create FBML apps, therefore Pages will no longer be able to add new Static FBML boxes to their Pages. Existing FBML [...]

  20. PolishLab —Marta Spendowska | Web + Print Design in Green Bay, WI. says:

    [...] Starting March 11th, 2011, developers won’t be able to build new FMBL apps, and Pages won’t be able to add static FBML apps as Page tabs (iFrames and FBML). [...]

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