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Report: F8 London (part 2)

Tom May continues his report on yesterday’s Facebook dev meet in London

Facebook devs dug deep into the Open Graph Platform at F8
Facebook devs dug deep into the Open Graph Platform at F8

Following a keynote speech which laid out the new features of Facebook (see earlier news story), the rest of yesterday’s F8 conference in London saw speakers dig into the Open Graph API and explain how app developers could take advantage of it.

Second on stage was platform engineer Simon Cross, who did a live demo centred around creating a social recipe app, which was able to post information-rich updates to Facebook.

"The Facebook Platform is a world away from what it was six months ago,” he stressed. “A lot of improvements have been made under the hood.”

Cross announced that Facebook has dumped Bugzilla and is working on a new debugging tool. There’s also a new policy of giving devs 90 days' notice of breaking changes. More effort is also being put into the developer blog and, if devs need to contact engineers with questions, they can now find them at facebook.stackoverflow.com, he added.

Fundamental questions

Taking advantage of social integration involves asking two fundamental questions, Cross explained. The first was: do users take actions in your product (such as listening to a song)?

The second was: do they have an ongoing relationship with you? (He gave the example of how Spotify lets you represent your identity through your musical tastes, tying you into the app emotionally.)

"Building on Facebook is just as easy as building for the web,” he said, and urged app developers to "build them and ship them today".

Gaming and mobile

Following lunch, Gareth Morris addressed gaming. "Over 200million+ users play Facebook games every month," he enthused. But to take advantage of this huge audience, you need your game to spread game virally. Key to this is considering what achievements players will want to boast about, and what their friends will be interested in.

"The Open Graph is an essential tool for games," he concluded. "The distribution possibilities are huge." You just need to make an investment up front, and make sure you always put your users first, he said.

Next up, Matt Kelly focused on mobile. Mobile users of Facebook are twice as active as desktop users, he pointed out. This offers app developers a huge opportunity: when EA/Playfish launched Sims Social, for instance, they gained 40million users in just a month. Facebook is working hard to make it easier for users to share things across different devices, he added.

A showcase of mobile apps already using the Open Graph API can be found at http://www.facebookmobileweb.com/showcase/, with documentation at docs on developers.facebook.com/mobile and developers.facebook.com/html5.

Marketing API & case study

Tom Elliot followed with a talk on how you can use the Marketing API to promote your app beyond the usual social channels. The main benefits are scale ("you can build hundreds or thousands of adverts in seconds") and automation (for example, you can link up with your real-time stock information and automatically alter your ad spend accordingly).

Elliot demonstrated how you can target an ad based upon users who have performed an action. For example, “because I listened to Lady Gaga on Spotify, her management can target me to sell me tickets when she's on tour.”

The final third of the afternoon kicked off with a talk from Mat Clayton from music service Mixcloud about their Open Graph launch. Integrating social features into the app resulted in a 55 per cent drop in bounce rate and a big increase in dwell time, he explained, while using the Facepile social plug-in increased signup conversion by 200-300 per cent.

Q&A

Lastly, a Q&A session with Christian Hern, Simon Cross and Ethan Beard answered a series of technical questions from the audience. We learned, among other things, that:

  • Facebook will be announcing a new class of their Preferred Developer programme "sometime soon".
  • There are no plans to introduce Timeline for brand pages.
  • It is possible to populate back-history on a Timeline, but you should always prompt the user first.
  • If you want to bulk upload historical data, you can add no_feed_story=1 to prevent a feed story coming up.
  • FQL is "not going away".
  • The ability to stream music is currently available only to approved partners due to legal issues; however, Facebook is open to new partners as long as they have legal access to music (or other audio).
  • You should view the Open Graph as a store for your app's data: store it in your own database.
  • You should publish any action you think is a relevant action - don’t hold back ("We can do smart aggregation to stop users being overwhelmed by updates").
  • It's not possible to share namespaces across apps.

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