Facebook’s Matt Kelly Describes Process Of Creating Plugin For WordPress

By David Cohen 

The plugin for WordPress launched by Facebook in June has been downloaded more than 180,000 times, and Engineer, Developer Relations Matt Kelly, who worked on the project, shared his experience in a note on the Facebook Engineering page.

Here are some of the highlights from Kelly’s note:

We chose to build an integration with WordPress because it has a massive footprint on the Web (powering 16.6 percent of all websites), it has a very active community, and it could serve as a good case study for showing interesting ways sites could integrate with Facebook to become more social.

In order to get a fresh view of what it was like to build on Facebook, I built the plugin based on what was publicly available for developers.

From the outset, I knew that it was important to work closely with the WordPress community. Many folks have already put a lot of effort into Facebook integration for WordPress, and, as a result, are familiar with many intricacies that we previously weren’t aware of. We ended up collaborating closely with WordPress folks, including Matt Mullenweg (the founder of WordPress) and Automattic, for ideas and code contributions.

The plugin introduced open graph integration including a new action, called news.publish. This allows authors to post a new blog post to their timeline as soon as it’s live. Shortly after launch, our platform operations team was inundated with requests to get this action approved. We quickly realized that the process was confusing. As a result, we ended up shipping it as a new global open graph action  which drastically simplified the developer experience.

I really appreciated the fluidity of this experience, something that I think is unique to Facebook. It feels like being at a startup, except that you actually have resources to get stuff done — lots of smart people, a strong brand, and a bunch of other qualities that aren’t usually available to a startup. While I could still build things like a WordPress plugin at a startup, there’s no way that the WordPress plugin would have seen the success it had without all of these things.

At release, the plugin was downloaded more than 12,000 times in 24 hours, and the blog post received some of the highest engagement we’ve seen. Since launch, we’ve begun fixing all the issues we ran into. We’ve also open sourced the code on GitHub, so that anyone can contribute code and track our progress. You can check it out here.

Developing the WordPress plugin gave us a great opportunity to dogfood our own tools. It’s been a great reminder of what a developer experiences on a daily basis, and as a result, we’ve uncovered some bugs and work flows that we will continue to improve.

Readers: Have you used the WordPress plugin for Facebook?