UPDATE: Read my article “How Long Will Static FBML be Supported by Facebook?” wherein I try to put to rest the rampant confusion!
Yesterday, August 19, 2010, Facebook announced that in the pursuit of simplifying and standardizing their platform, they would be moving away from FBML and towards iFrames, both for canvas applications and Page tabs.
Facebook Static FBML, an app that allows those with minimal coding experience to create their own custom tabs, may be a victim of this change, as well as those amateur coders and the FBML Entrepreneurs who love them.
Facebook’s Announcement of the FBML / iFrame Change
Namita Gupta wrote on the Facebook Developer Blog:
Facebook’s Previous Advice about Moving your Deleted Boxes Content to Custom Tabs? Forget about it!
Back in February when Facebook was letting everyone know that they would soon be getting rid of both the boxes Wall sidebar and the Boxes tab, it advised: “Create custom content in FBML on a custom tab (optional). Move deleted content from Boxes to a new tab on your page by adding the FBML application to your page.”
Well, that was then and this is now. Now it appears they’re saying something very different.
Where does Static FBML fit into these FBML / iFrame changes?
Static FBML is Facebook’s own application for creating custom tabs using CSS, HTML and FBML. On the Static FBML application page, it is described: “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.”
Certainly, as Facebook is clear to point out, custom tabs created with Static FBML or FBML applications will continued to be supported indefinitely, but developers were also clearly advised:
And the same blog post mentioned:
So which FBML tags will be deprecated/eliminated and which will be a part of the “small set of core FBML tags”? I’ve spoken with a few colleagues who also work in Facebook development and they’ve mentioned such tags as fb:visible-to-connection, fb:share and fb:comments being eliminated.
Demise of Static FBML = Demise of the Amateur Coder
The beauty of the Static FBML application is that it allows people with very minimal Web coding or development experience to build their own custom tabs, usually with the aid of some free or commercial FBML templates that require very basic HTML knowledge and allow the user to just copy and paste the content into the Static FBML box.
However, setting up iFrame custom applications requires significantly more knowledge. At a minimum:
- Downloading and uploading files via FTP;
- Working with, and troubleshooting, HTML iframe code.
To Web professionals, the above is trivial. But to those who were able to easily adapt their basic HTML skills to the requirements of Static FBML, it may be a steep hill to climb. The ground has definitely shifted.
Fan Pages that Cater to Amateur Custom Tab Creators
There is a cottage industry of Facebook FBML “Entrepreneurs” (most of whom are new to Web coding, a skill which can take years to fully master) who are going to have to raise their game in order to stay in the game, and keep their clamoring fans happy.
If Static FBML does indeed go away early next year, it will take not only an entire ecosystem of amateur custom-tab creators, but also many of the fan sites (and their FBML Entrepreneurs) that feed them a steady stream of FBML tags and pre-coded templates.
Will Static FBML Be Available in 2011?
At this point, Facebook is mute on this question. And it’s hard to tell from their recent announcements what will be its fate. Stay tuned.
Should people continue to develop new Static FBML custom tabs?
Any custom tabs developed before the changeover will be supported into the indefinite future. We know for sure that this applies to the creation of FBML canvas applications.
How Facebook handles Static FBML custom tabs will be interesting. Static FBML is Facebook’s own application and quite recently Facebook was recommending that page admins use custom tabs for boxes content when support for boxes is yanked.
And Static FBML tabs are used by hundreds of thousands of Facebook users (the Static FBML app page has 429,158 fans!), so I would expect support for existing Static FBML tabs and for the common FBML tags it supports (fb:swf, fb:mp3, fb:share-button, etc.) to continue for quite some time.
Of course, we sell custom Static FBML templates, and we are asked if it’s no longer viable to purchase them because of the impending change. I believe that our templates, like FBML canvas apps, will be supported well into the future.
As Namita Gupta wrote: “We will, however, continue to support existing implementations of the older authentication mechanism as well as FBML on Page tabs and applications.”
Facebook may just let FBML fade away by attrition.
Please post any information you find out in the comments!