If you have an app that relies heavily on certain types of data obtained from Facebook users, you may have your work cut out for you.
Facebook held its f8 developers conference this week, and among other things, announced an anonymous login option and a new regular login, which enables users to share less data with third-party apps if they like. While certainly good for users, it's not going to make things easier for developers and app providers trying to build a business or help their existing business using Facebook's platform. Facebook thinks that in the end, however, this will still be good for developers.
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments.
Wired did an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, and pointed out that the new offerings seem to be less about helping developers than they are about protecting users from developers.
His response was this: "Our philosophy is that we care about people first. In the case of login, some of the things that we’re doing may add a little bit of friction to the experience by giving people the opportunity to not share certain things with apps. That will mean that developers will have to adjust. Over time, making it so that people trust the blue button to log in to Facebook will ultimately be good for developers, too."
How things have changed since the "frictionless sharing" theme of the prior f8 conference in 2011.
"When we were a smaller company, Facebook login was widely adopted, and the growth rate for it has been quite quick," he elaborated. "But in order to get to the next level and become more ubiquitous, it needs to be trusted even more. We’re a bigger company now and people have more questions. We need to give people more control over their information so that everyone feels comfortable using these products."
The new Facebook login lets users remove individual items from the list of permissions an app prompts them with. For example, they can remove their email address (so good luck with if you're using your app to cultivate a mailing list).
The company does have a new login review process for apps:
During the review process they'll "make sure" your app is only requesting the permissions it "really needs". It will make sure that your app clearly asks for permission to post to their profile if that's your intention. It also tests your login info on a variety of devices to make sure there aren't any crashes or error warnings.
Asked about letting users use Facebook login without letting developers know who they are, Zuck told Wired, "What it’s doing is allowing someone to sign into an app without revealing who they are to the app. But then we also offer this nice upgrade path so that after you’ve signed in anonymously, if you are comfortable telling the app your information, you can easily do that. You can maintain a seamless experience without having to set up a new identity within the app because it’s all continuous."
But how often is this really going to happen? How often are people going to login anonymously, and then decide to go ahead and give apps more information about themselves? Even if they're comfortable enough to share data with the app, how often are they going to bother to take the "upgrade path" to share more, especially if the app is already working as well as they want or need it to?
This is a challenge developers may find themselves facing. And what's the solution? Do you only offer a better version of the app only if users give up enough data? If so, that's going to hurt the user's first impression of the app because they're not getting the full, better experience when they try it out. Is the solution to just not offer the anonymous login? It's apparently up to the developer to make that available.
As far as the new regular login, I guess it will come down to how well the new review process works. Either way, you may need to re-evaluate how many permissions you really need from users, which in some cases could require rethinking the entire business model around your app. At least you'll have some time to consider it. Facebook is reportedly giving apps a year to get compliant with the new standards. Mashable spoke with the company:
"Developers need to do work to support you declining permissions, and build the experiences around helping educate and explain to you why they are asking for that information," Eddie O'Neil, a Facebook product manager, told Mashable.
O'Neil said users are expecting more transparency from Facebook, and the company is recommending that developers limit the number of permissions their apps ask for at once.
Facebook's share of social logins has been on the decline, and it's likely directly related to the issues Facebook aims to resolve with its new offerings. These features could help it fight back against Google whose share of that market has been on the rise.
Of course you'd be smart to offer as many login options as possible to raise the comfort level of users. Some people are going to want to login with Google, Twitter or something else regardless of Facebook's changes.
Do you think Facebook's changes will be good for developers in the long run? Let us know in the comments.