There are rumors that Facebook has been working on their own WordPress plugin for Facebook. This is troubling for those of us developers that are developing for Facebook Connect, as it shows that Facebook could in one sweep, wipe any developer writing for the Facebook Connect platform out without any advanced notice. It only appeared that in the past, this type of thing only happened on the Facebook website itself, as Facebook has a right to, but I’ve seen it myself with my own development on Facebook Connect today.
Fair enough. I like competition, although I’d love this to be a community effort. So, since we know Facebook is working on their own WordPress plugin for Facebook, and we know Facebook isn’t willing to divulge their code yet. Since I’ve already devoted 20 or so of my own hours to the exact same project with no knowledge from Facebook, and am just now learning that Facebook was working on this behind the scenes incognito with no involvement from the community, I’d like to release my own plugin to the public, under the GPL v2.0 today, in the hopes the public can help with development and further building of this plugin, as a community, not just under Facebook’s roof.
It’s very troubling to see Facebook develop on external apps outside of Facebook like this – it only shows that Facebook is not afraid to encroach on other developers’ projects and that any one of us is at risk of having a useful project, our time and effort (I had no intentions on making money from this), wiped out in an instant. Sure, Facebook has every right to compete, but the least courtesy of notifying developers it already knows would be competition. With such a WordPress plugin this also encroaches on Six Apart’s announced integration with Facebook Connect, and puts Facebook in direct competition with Six Apart instead of making it Automattic’s problem.
It’s my sincere hope that Facebook decides not to continue such projects internally, but instead contributes to existing projects if they must do so. Facebook should in no way be competing with the developers that use their platform without warning, or risk us not being willing to contribute such things in the future. Let’s work together on this Facebook – how about a “we need help” board, or an “internal projects” board so we can know what you’re working on in advance. In this way we can work with you instead of parallel to you and hours spent doing so won’t be wasted. Or how about a little nudge to people like Six Apart saying, “we may just have to compete with you on this in the future” so their own time isn’t wasted with the integration.
Why should I keep building external web apps that integrate and send users to Facebook if Facebook is just going to replace my web apps in the end anyway?
So, I’m going to release my code here right now in hopes we can make this a community project – it requires you to set up your own app for your blog under the Facebook Developers site (just set your callback URL to your own website’s URL), and you must take your application key and enter it into the admin section. Only developers of the Facebook app itself can login through Facebook Connect until Facebook launches (one more advantage Facebook has over us developers – they know when they are launching, and therefore know how much time they have to develop these things, another reason to leave it to us developers in order to keep it fair). To install on your blog after doing so, just unzip the folder in your plugins folder, and activate your plugin under the plugins section in WordPress. After that, any Facebook user will be able to leave comments, under their own authentication, Facebook avatar, and name without having to re-enter it each time. We’ll be integrating this more in the future – if you can help please let me know! My project is a community project, not owned by Facebook, completely owned by me and you for the benefit of the community.
You can download it here.
You can see it in action on my test site, http://socialmediacast.staynalive.com – check out the Hello World post to see the existing comments. Note you will not be able to log in to Facebook Connect on that site because you are not a developer on the app for that site.
Now, I know I ranted a bit – it’s late, but I hope this makes some sort of sense. Am I out of line here? Should I just scrap my code completely and let Facebook do this? Is it a wise move for Facebook to keep making external apps like this that integrate with Facebook? What’s the best way for Facebook to approach this? I welcome your comments below.