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  • How Long Will Static FBML be Supported by Facebook?

    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:

    By the end of this year, we will no longer allow new FBML applications to be created, so all new canvas applications and Page tabs will have to be based on IFrames and our JavaScript SDK. We will, however, continue to support existing implementations of the older authentication mechanism as well as FBML on Page tabs and applications. [emphasis added]

    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!

    Static FBML is Facebook’s own application; it doesn’t create new FBML applications, it simply facilitates the creation of custom tabs that support CSS, HTML, FBML and FBJS, Facebook’s own JavaScript flavor.

    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:

    We are in the process of deprecating FBML. If you are building a new application on Facebook.com, please implement your application within an iframe, using our JavaScript SDK and Social Plugins. While there is still functionality that we have not ported over yet, we are no longer adding new features to FBML.

    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.

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    Comments

    1. Hello,

      Pardon my ignorance on the subject but I am confused… So what you’re saying is FBML landing pages will not be able to be simply created using HTML? From now on, is it good practice to create a landing page within an tag?

      Thanks!
      Marcia

      • I don’t quite follow your question, Marcia. Facebook’s announced changes are primarily around canvas applications. Whether or not Static FBML and the tags it supports will eventually be affected is a hot topic, as Facebook has not bothered to clarify the confusion, probably because they’ve not made a decision about that application.

        Static FBML app has millions of users, from small to very large businesses and organizations, bands, filmmakers, etc. So changes have to be considered very carefully.

    2. Seems like FBML is slowly being removed. I have lost all my FBML tabs on may of my facebook managed pages. Any image I added have been blocked by Facebook :

      “This message contains blocked content that has previously been flagged as abusive or spammy. Let us know if you think this is an error.”

      Do you know about this issue?

      • Not sure about the “spammy” message. I wish *I’d* gotten those mistaken “prototype” new fan pages that Facebook says they accidentally pushed live! Then I could have explorered the new interface. But our Pages didn’t see the change. But Facebook has retracted them for the time being. Read this article: http://bit.ly/eku6E4

    3. Hi! Great info! I am a little confused. I am trying to make a customized tab on one of our business pages but could dowload the FBML app to do so… Do you know what should I use instead and how to download it? The FB developers pages haven’t been too clear for me.

      • Hi Ursula. You should be able to add the app to your page. If you’ve visited the Static FBML application page, you should see “Add to my Page” in the left column. If you don’t see this then perhaps you’re not logged in with a personal account that is a Page admin? I know that *I* still see it there: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=4949752878&b

        You can refer to our Static FBML troubleshooting guide for additional help.

        • I don’t see it on the link provided by found it under Apps when editing the Page. Good luck!

        • Tim, I was shocked to see that the link to “add FBML” when you are editing an FBML app on a fan page is gone! This couldn’t have come at a worse time. Do you know anything about the change? I have followed the link on your comment to the Static FBML page on facebook and clicked add to my page, I selected the page I am administering and clicked “add” but still no luck. Have you heard anything about this change or noticed that the ability to add FBML is gone?!?

          • You can have up to 10 Static FBML custom tabs. After you have 10, you’ll no longer see the option at the bottom of any one of the tab-edit screens to add another one.

            So there’s no “change”, Andrew. If you’re talking about simply adding the Static FBML app to your Page, that’s working fine too.

    4. Hi all…. I was lost with this thing. Can I add twitter feeds with in facebook FBML Tab? what do i need to use? an FB:IFRAME? or what?

      hope anyone can give enlightenment.

      • You can’t do it with Static FBML. You’d have to create a Facebook canvas application.

        • HI tim, how about this one:

          new TWTR.Widget({ version: 2, type: ‘profile’, rpp: 1, interval: 6000, width: 225, height: 125, theme: { shell: { background: ‘#fedcec’, color: ‘#000000′ }, tweets: { background: ‘#F8F4EA’, color: ‘#000000′, links: ‘#e874bf’ } }, features: { scrollbar: false, loop: false, live: false, hashtags: true, timestamp: true, avatars: false, behavior: ‘all’ }}).render().setUser(‘username’).start();

          – Can I add this one in facebook canvas? cause facebook is very sensitive with external javascript.

    5. Hi, quick question about FBML: my landing page is in FBML and I’m wondering if there is any way to add meta tags to it (for keywords, title, so forth)?
      I’m guessing no since I can’t find anything on the Web about it.
      Thanks.

      • No way to add meta tags as those live in the <head> of the page and there’s no access to modify that. However, you can use structural semantic markup and make sure you work important keywords into your headers and content, and have keywords in your link anchor text and all the other on-page stuff that IS available to you.

        • My landing page now is really just images, so I will try to work in more keywords in the alt tags and anchors. And maybe place content under the images (assuming z-indexing works normally in FBML). Thanks!

    6. Another fantastic article, my static FBML panic has been subdued, keep up the good work! :)

      • Yes, certainly nothing to panic about. However, Facebook did actually remove the ability of Page admins to add the Static FBML app after March 10, 2011. But they say they’ll support existing installs. The FBML tags commonly used are to be “deprecated” which can mean they’re around for months or years. Who knows?

    7. Tim,

      I’ve been building apps on Facebook’s Platform since 2007 and have seen a lot of changes in that time. I expect Facebook to begin eliminating FBML features by December 2011. They hinted at this in a blog post in February, “While all existing apps on Pages using FBML or the Static FBML app will continue to work, we strongly recommend that these apps transition to iframes as soon as possible.[1]” Since they recommend transitioning existing apps, it’s clear they are not expecting to continue letting FBML run for long.

      Facebook changes their products quickly, and there’s no reason to expect they’ll do otherwise here. FBML creates a huge computational load, every display of FBML needs to be parsed before being served. While this sounds trivial, the parsing process validates and re-writes a lot of code, including javascript and css. Eliminating it will save them significant system resources.

      Additional evidence can be seen with the quick transition to the Graph API. Facebook released the Graph API last spring and has already disabled much of the legacy REST API, there are only a handful of calls that are not yet supported and once they are, the legacy API will be short lived.

      Page administrators would be well served transitioning their applications to iframe sooner than later. For those looking to create a landing page but not learn the nuances of creating an iframe tab, there are a number of applications cropping up that provide the same functionality as the Static FBML application did.

      Erik

      [1] http://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/462

      • Erik, Thanks for this contribution to the conversation! You make a very compelling & convincing case for not counting on FBML to be supported for all that long. What you write has certainly impacted my my thinking about FBML’s longevity and I will revise my published thoughts on that accordingly. – Tim

    8. Thanks for clearing this up Tim. HyperArts developed our FB page (which is awesome I might add) and it uses the Static FBML app (as well as I-Frames, custom app(s) and others)…I was a bit worried we would have to make changes…by “we” I mean HyperArts :-)

      BEWARE:
      There is some intentional misinformation out there. I rec’d an email from another (very well known) app developer warning me of the change and offering an alternative “Static HTML” app to help me “cope with the change”. OutVolver should be ashamed of themselves.

      Check out HyperArts’ work at:
      http://www.Facebook.com/UMoveFree

      Thank again Tim – Nick

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