Nick O’Neill recently wrote about the possibility that if Facebook would just open up your status updates, Twitter could be put out of its tracks. Well, actually, Facebook updates are open – it’s just up to each user to release them. Any user on Facebook can provide their friends’ status updates to any third party provider, through a simple RSS feed, and this feed has been around since April of 2007!
To obtain the RSS feed is simple. Just click on “Friends” in the header at the top of Facebook and select “All Friends” in the drop-down. Now, look up in the URL bar of your browser (this works best in Firefox or Safari) – see the little RSS icon? Click on it, an voila, your friends’ status updates will come, in a live feed, straight to your RSS reader. There’s nothing stopping developers from creating a service around this, asking for this URL from users, and providing a Twitter-like interface around it. The URL goes in this format, and it’s completely controlled by the user, because a key must be provided to the app that wants to use it (this is for me and my friends, key obviously omitted):
This also works for your own updates. To get an RSS feed of just your updates, you have to go to your mini feed page at this url (I can’t find a way to get there through links on Facebook – if you know of a way please let me know in the comments). On the right hand side of the page, you’ll see a “My Status” link. Add that to your RSS reader and now all your personal Facebook status updates will go to your reader! Again, with a key you give out as a user, any app can now use this data to track your own status updates. In fact, FriendFeed is already utilizing this feed! The URL for personal updates is in the format of (I’m leaving my key in this case so you can see my own updates):
Of course, any developer can also access these updates, with the user’s permission, via the Facebook API as well so theoretically you don’t even have to collect these URLs. However, through this method, anyone can track you, and your friends’ status updates with your permission. So your Facebook updates are public, sort of.