Facebook now allows developers to create and manage test users for their applications via the Developer app‘s graphical user interface. Previously, test users could only be created and controlled programattically through the Graph API, which may have made using them difficult for developers not fluent in the API or those looking to faithfully recreate the typical user experience. Some developers will gain access to the test user feature today, and the roll out will reach all developers by next week.
In other Platform news, Facebook recently added support for uploading photos to the graph API via a URL and attaching an existing photo from one of a user’s albums into a new post. It also released a new dark color theme option for its Facepile social plugin.
Facebook introduced the test user system so developers could test their apps without creating fake user profiles that violate Facebook’s terms of service, or polluting their own profiles with test posts. Test users can interact normally with apps and each other, but are invisible to and can’t interact with normal users. Note that test users are different than “testers”, which are humans that a developer has given the ability to test their app in sandbox mode, but not granted access to their app’s settings or Insights.
Now when developers visit the Roles section for one of their apps within the Developer app, they’ll see the option to add test users. Multiple test users can be created at once, and developers have the option to instantly authorize an app for them or opt to have them go through the permissions dialog later.
Once test users have been created, developers can switch to use Facebook as them, edit their names, view their access tokens, make them friends with each other, assign them to additional apps, or remove them from the currently viewed app. When switched to be logged in as a test user, developers can edit their profile to add content necessary to test an app.
The feature should make development on the Facebook Platform more accessible. By lowering the barrier to creating and testing apps, Facebook can court the long-tail of independent developers that have yet to grow accustomed to the social network’s proprietary APIs.
Previously, developers had to use a MIME-encoded form field to upload photos via the Graph API. Now developers can just point to an image’s URL to upload it, which will simplify the use of photos for developers using cloud hosting services such as Amazon S3 or “platforms that don’t have good support for multipart file uploads”. Those looking to populate an app with a large batch of photos will find it much easier thanks to this feature.
Developers can also now pull a user’s existing photos into new posts their apps publish on the user’s behalf. This relieves users from having the upload a new photo, increasing the likelihood they’ll go through with posting via the app. Images have been shown to increase news feed engagement, so this change could also help apps achieve more virality.
Lastly, Facebook has released a dark background version of the Facepile social plugin, which displays thumbnail profile pics of friends that have Liked a website or used an application. This will make the plugin a beter aesthetic fit for darker websites, and spread the Facepile’s implicit social recommendations further across the internet.