Facebook Open Graph Revisions Include Notices
October 12, 2012

Facebook Revises Open Graph With User Notices

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Just about every online action can potentially end up posting itself to Facebook. Listen to music on Spotify and your playlist is posted. Watch a show on Hulu and your friends will see that too. And if you read an article on Yahoo, that will get posted to your timeline with a "Jimmy read this article" tag. That's been the behavior of Facebook for the past year due to Open Graph, an API that lets developers automate posts to user timelines, without very much notification.

Facebook is taking a step back from some of the automated posts set up using Open Graph, adding steps that will notify users that their action will be posted to their wall. The extra step gives users an opportunity to make a decision not to post about reading the latest news on Honey Boo Boo's escapades. While some high-profile sites such as the previously mentioned Yahoo, Hulu and Spotify might be able to continue to automatically post to a user's wall, most actions will require a notice to the user.

In a post on the Facebook developer blog titled "Growing Quality Apps with Open Graph" posted on Wednesday, Facebook's Henry Zhang wrote about the changes the social networking site was implementing to its Open Graph API.

"Over the past six months we've launched new channels, such as App Center, with our improved recommendations engine, to drive distribution to the highest quality apps. As part of these ongoing updates, today we're releasing improvements to how we present Open Graph stories in news feed and on timeline to drive growth and engagement to your app," the post reads.

The update is listed as "improvements" to Open Graph. The fine print is that these are changes to Open Graph. "In order to provide users with experiences that meet their expectations, we will no longer approve custom actions that publish stories as people consume content. These apps must use the appropriate built-in actions or create a different sharing experience. We are also deprecating a handful of features that led to low quality user experiences," it says in the post.

The purpose for these changes is to help developers build quality apps "that people will love," Zhang says in his post. It is likely, however, a reaction to users getting upset when status updates appear on their timeline without their explicit consent. If a user reads an article during the day, or listens to music on Spotify, those actions will update on a user's timeline. A boss might see the status update, and believe that an employee is not doing his job. Or a user might be embarrassed that his interest in top 40 music is broadcast to all of his friends after he listens to a song, or a few, from certain artists on Spotify.

Facebook is picking and choosing where it will allow automatic posts, based on what it finds to be "quality apps." This means that if the app drives traffic without getting users upset, the practice will likely be able to continue. "On average, Open Graph stories now have 50 percent higher click through rates than similar stories published using non-Open Graph API's (stream.publish)." Facebook is also releasing new Open Graph guidelines and clarification of Platform policies.

An update was posted to the original blog post that provides a little more explanation.

"To clarify, the majority of custom actions will continue to be approved and function as normal. The changes announced below only impact custom actions for apps that publish stories as content is consumed. For example, if you have an app that publishes a "view" action to a timeline and news feed each time some looks at videos on your site, you must migrate to the appropriate built-in action - 'watch' - to provide a consistent user experience," the update said.