Just this past week, Facebook announced that starting next week users will begin to have the option to adopt the new profile design into their Facebook account. Facebook has been preparing this for months, and supposedly was set to try and launch a few months ago. However, even today the new Profile redesign does not seem ready, and it appears developers aren’t happy.
For the past month or two Facebook has enabled access to the new design to those that have the developers app installed in their account via the url http://www.new.facebook.com. This was to enable developers to begin to prepare their applications for when the redesign goes live. The new design change will make significant changes to the way news stories are published to the user’s mini feed in Facebook, allow the developers to move profile boxes to various areas within a user’s profile, and will introduce a new “info” profile integration point for developers as well as an entire tab on the user’s profile that can be devoted to a developer’s application.
For those developers that don’t prepare, application profile boxes will, by default, be placed in a separate tab entitled, “boxes”, away from the main area of the user’s profile. In addition, news stories will no longer be published to a user’s profile in the same way they are now. This introduces concerns for developers that are worried Facebook has not given them enough time to prepare for this change.
Developers have a valid concern too if they don’t think they were given enough time. For instance, it wasn’t until just last week that the example “MySmily” application on Facebook began to work (it had been working before, but it seems for several days it was down, and has been up and down frequently since it was shown to developers). This app is the sample that Facebook provided for developers to learn of the new integration points from. Its functionality has been quite flaky over time, making it difficult for developers to have full access to it to learn how to develop for the new design. In fact, even today installing the latest version of the “MySmily” source code per the documentation returns with an error.
We went over a demo of this application and the new design in our Social Media Developers Garage here in Salt Lake City last night, and we quickly discovered the new design was riddled with cross-browser compatibility issues. I couldn’t do things in Safari that others could do in Firefox, and others running Internet Explorer also were having major issues gaining full access to the new design. Also, ironically, while Facebook recently launched the ability to comment on mini-feed and status items in the old design, the new design is void of this new feature. Add to that on a large screen like my 27″ the site is mostly white space on both sides and really doesn’t look very good, Facebook still has some serious design issues to work out.
In addition, there still remain many mysteries for developers. Facebook has still not made any mention as to where ads can and can’t be placed in the new design. The documentation remains vague – there are many references to passing a variable into a setFBML call to determine where the application’s profile goes, but there are no examples as to how to set that. Also, the Facebook test consoles are also seemingly having issues supporting the new API and FBML tags and calls. Several FBML tags are also not working, including , a popular tag used by many developers (including myself) for displaying a comments box in their application.
The things I mention are only the tip of the iceberg. Many developers are angry that the new design will mean less traffic and user engagement for their applications. Many businesses could be dead overnight from this new design. There are several topics open in the developer forums with developers stating their frustrations with the new design. “distinctdev” says, “Still no solid spec and the new profile launches in 1 week – Whats up with that?”. There is an entire petition set up by developers asking to say “no” to the new Facebook profile. That petition is here, and thus far there are 17 signatures. From that forum post, “Wild Bill”, author of the “Robot Armies” app on Facebook states:
From “friendhugs“, “Nobody will be using the new format for quite awhile. It’s all opt in right now, and I suspect once they find out nothing works, they’ll just flip right back.”. Also see “madpuffin’s” issue here. I could go on and on with more developers having issues and frustrations like this.
Of course, with any new change, there is going to be whiners and complainers and fallout due to the changes – this is a fact of life with any new design. I have seen it plenty of times with redesigns I have done in the past. However, the problems Facebook seems to still have in the new design go way beyond just design issues, and frankly, I think these developers (including myself) have some valid concerns! It will be interesting to see if Facebook can work out all these issues before they launch next week, or if they’re still going to launch, bugs and all.