Early today Facebook posted a series of new API methods to their Developer Wiki enabling developers to post updates to what was previously called the “Application Navigation”, but what would now appear to be called “the Dashboard”. The Dashboard API aims to provide an easier interface for users to find updates to their favorite apps without cluttering the stream. At the same time, the Dashboard API tries to encourage more users to bookmark applications and provide applications on Facebook Platform another means of sharing information with their users.
The Dashboard, which will appear on the left-hand navigation either in place of or near the Friend Lists, should launch to users in the next week or two according to a vision statement posted by Mark Zuckerberg recently and the current developer roadmap. When launched, users will be able to bookmark their favorite applications on Facebook or on their favorite Facebook Connect-enabled site and those applications will appear in the left-navigation in the new Dashboard. Applications can then send updates, incrementing a counter when new updates are posted, enabling users to know when new updates are available from their favorite applications. When the user clicks on each application they are taken to a page with the updates.
In addition to traditional applications, according to the new developer documentation there will be a games category in the dashboard. If applications have categorized themselves as a game in the Facebook App directory, their app will appear underneath the Games category. This category appears to try and make it easier for users to manage all their games under one easy navigation so they can focus on the more productive apps beyond just gaming. Other applications appear under an Applications category, and there is also a “Friends’ Games” and “Friends’ Applications” category enabling users to view applications and games their friends are using, I assume.
The new Dashboard API enables developers to do all the things mentioned above, and comes alongside the 6 month developer roadmap announced earlier by Facebook. The roadmap comes with mixed criticism from developers, with some excited for new integration opportunities and better organization, while other developers mad at the removal of some features in the planned changes. One developer I talked to today was frustrated with the frequent changes Facebook makes on the Facebook.com site itself, opting to begin moving his development efforts more over to Facebook Connect where he has more control. I believe that is exactly where Facebook wants him.
The new Dashboard API should provide new opportunities for developers to update their users and easily notify users of changes within their apps. The API, according to the documentation, is available for development and testing now. According to the documentation there is no sandbox for the new API, but developers can start testing these methods on their own servers. It is unclear how developers will be able to begin testing the UI for the new methods.