There continues to be widespread confusion regarding Facebook’s announcement in August 2010 that it was going to eliminate FBML canvas application development in Q4 2010.
Because HyperArts sells custom Facebook Static FBML templates and is considered an authoritative resource for all things FBML, I am constantly asked if Static FBML is being eliminated in Q1 2011, when Facebook says it will no longer allow creation of FBML canvas applications. My answer: No.
The August 2010 Announcement and Why It was Confusing
In August 2010, Facebook announced that it would begin allowing developers to create ONLY iFrame canvas applications, and eliminate FBML canvas applications:
Much of the confusion stems from people interpreting “we will not longer allow new FBML applications to be created” to mean that new custom tabs created with Facebook’s Static FBML application will no longer be allowed. This is simply not true!
And by “Page tabs” Facebook means canvas applications that are added to Pages, NOT custom tabs created with the Static FBML application. A “canvas” page is the actual application page — with an allowable width of 760 pixels — and is not accessible via a tab on a Fan Page. (Compare the HyperArts Application Canvas Page and that application added to the HyperArts Fan Page to become a “Page Tab.”)
FBML is being Deprecated, Not Eliminated or Disabled
FBML, the mark-up language, is being deprecated (not eliminated); the option to create FBML canvas applications is being eliminated.
This statement by Facebook should alleviate users’ concerns about their custom Static FBML tabs or favorite FBML tags being eliminated in the near future.
Facebook states explicitly:
What does “deprecate” mean? In this context, it means that Facebook is halting any further development or improvement of FBML and letting tags fade away as their usage shrinks, much as is done with deprecated HTML tags. And, at some future time, FBML will have been eliminated altogether, but certainly not while a small subset of tags remain very popular and still in widespread use. There have HTML tags that have worked a decade beyond when they were deprecated. A look at the tags on the current list of deprecated FBML on the Facebook Developer Roadmap reveals tags that are not and have never been supported by Static FBML. These are tags that were used by Facebook canvas applications, not by Static FBML.
On Facebook’s Static FBML Application Page, No Mention of It Going Away
Facebook continues to state at the top of its Static FBML application page:
Add advanced functionality to your Page using the Facebook Static FBML application. This application will add a box to your Page in which you can render HTML or FBML (Facebook Markup Language) for enhanced Page customisation.
Per its usual protocol, if and when Facebook wants to move away from this application, they will put users on notice on this application page, and way in advance, given that there are millions of users of the Static FBML application.
Delays in Implementing iFrames on Page Tabs
Facebook now says that it is delaying disabling FBML canvas apps till Q1 2011 because they haven’t gotten the iFrames on Page tabs sorted out yet — currently users have to click an “activation” image to load an iframed page, and I believe Facebook wants to eliminate this cumbersome requirement.
When Will Facebook Eliminate Static FBML?
As for Static FBML custom tabs, given that there are so many businesses, organizations and other entities utilizing this app — which was developed by Facebook — and the fact that Facebook continues to suggest this approach to custom tabs until they change how tabs handle iframes, I strongly believe Static FBML and its supported tags will be around for the indefinite future.
Remember: Facebook intends only to deprecate FBML, not eliminate it, as it intends to do with FBML canvas applications.
Some Predictions for 2011
I anticipate that in 2011 Facebook will eliminate the requirement that an activation image be clicked in order for an iframe to load in a custom tab. And I anticipate that Static FBML will be around for as long as folks find it an easier, or cheaper, approach to having a custom tab, at least for several years.
Of course, eventually, when it seems that the number of Static FBML users has sufficiently dwindled to the point where its elimination won’t cause a major disruption, Facebook will probably pull the plug. But it is and remains the easiest and most economical way for users to create custom tabs without paying to subscribe to some kind of WYSIWYG service or to have a professional developer do the work.