Is A Lack Of Communication Hurting Facebook’s Relationship With Developers?

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It would seem that Facebook has been pissing off developers again (though I’m not sure this ever truly stopped).

A couple of fairly publicized complaints (at least within the developer community, courtesy of Hacker News) have drawn some response from Facebook. One, called “The Facebook Platform is a Trainwreck, Example #871” talks about how “there are few APIs more painful to work with than the Facebook API”.

“The problem is not that the API is buggy and inconsistent. The problem is that Facebook doesn’t care if the API is buggy and inconsistent,” the author charges. It talks specifically about the Javascript SDK.

The other post was “Facebook deleted their python-sdk repository without warning”.

“Facebook has some sort of policy that they give 90 days' notice for breaking API changes,” the author of that post writes. “I guess this doesn't count? There's a developer response where they basically say "We don't have this anymore" with no explanation.”

Emil Protalinski, writing for ZDNet’s Friending Facebook blog, shares some response he got from Facebook’s director of developer relations. “In short, he offered his apologies, cleared up some confusion, and promised Facebook still cares about developers,” writes Protalinksi. “Is that true? You be the judge.”

“We absolutely do care about our API,” FB director fo devloper relations Douglas Purdy is quoted as saying. “We are working as hard as we can to make our API less buggy and more stable.”

Facebook put out its latest “Operation Developer Love” list of platform updates. Here are some changes that Facebook developers can expect to go into effect on January 1, from the list:

  • Deprecating the FB.Data.* JS SDK APIs. This will be no longer supported and will not be available to new apps.
  • Deprecating FB.Canvas.setAutoResize. We have renamed FB.Canvas.setAutoResize to FB.Canvas.setAutoGrow so that the method more accurately represents its function. Fb.Canvas.setAutoResize will be removed.
  • Deprecating FBML FBML will no longer be supported as of January 1, 2012. Aside from security and privacy related bugs, we will not fix any bugs related to FBML after January 1, 2012. On June 1, 2012 FBML endpoints will be removed from Platform
  • All apps will be opted into "Upgrade to Requests 2.0" and "Requests 2.0 Efficient" Existing apps will be opted into “Requests 2.0 Efficient” and "Upgrade to Requests 2.0" migrations and all developers must ensure that they are using the correct request_id format and deleting requests appropriately. Details in this blog post
  • Enforcing Credits Policy We have added a new policy to the Facebook Credits Terms that prohibits routing Credits from one app to another app without our prior authorization.

According to Facebook’s post, 197 bugs were reported in the last week-long period (12/21-12/27). 45 bugs were reproducible and accepted (after duplicates removed). 21 bugs were by design. 20 were fixed. 173 were duplicate, invalid, or need more information.

Protalinski concludes that Facebook has a “serious communication problem” with developers. In Facebook’s report, it says there were 75 questions asked on over the weeek. Only 18 of them were answered, a 24% answer rate.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.