Facebook has just announced a partnership with cloud application platform Heroku. It will allow app developers to instantly create sample applications in their choice of language environment for free, rather than having to set up and pay for their own hosting right from the beginning. They’ll then be able to test common app functionalities and edit code to create a full-fledged custom Facebook app. Developers only need to pay if their app grows to a “large amount of traffic or users”
By lowering the barrier to entry for app development, Facebook may be hoping to hook more developers on the Platform and increase the breadth of experiences it can offer users.
Meanwhile, Heroku will have the opportunity to convert free sample app developers into customers. Facebook says “we are starting to partner with some of the top cloud service providers”, and there is a Choose Provider step in the flow, currently the only integrated provider is Heroku.
Previously, developers had to arrange local, virtual private server, or cloud hosting before they could begin testing out the capabilities of the Facebook Platform. This may have prevented some developers from getting started. Providing a wide range of canvas, mobile, and website apps that engage users is in Facebook’s interest, so it arranged this partnership to get more developers to choose Facebook over competing social platforms and mobile operating systems.
Now when a new app is created through the Facebook Developer application, a Cloud Services section appears on the basic settings page. Developers can then choose between building in PHP, Ruby, Node.js, or Python and then follow a flow to launch a sample app.
Devs may then explore functionality such as authentication, feed and send dialogs, and using the Graph API. They can edit the sample app’s code to customize features, and configure settings to make their app public. If necessary, they can then opt to pay Heroku for storage, web dynos, worker dynos, databases, and add-ons.
As competition for developers heats up between the major platforms, Facebook needs ways to lure innovative new third-party talent. If the Heroku partnership makes testing out the Facebook Platform easier than iOS, Android, Google+ and other platforms, it can maintain an influx of new apps that drive up time-on-site and the social network’s presence on mobile and across the web.