Facebook’s New User Registration Tool for Websites: Implementation Details and Impact

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By Josh Constine Comment

Facebook has officially launched its new “registration tool” for third-party websites. This powerful plugin allows websites to insert a single line of code to create a registration form which pre-populates fields with a user’s Facebook data. We expect widespread adoption of the tool because it will reduce drop off during registration and provide sites with data including a verified email address which has been historically difficult to get users to provide.

Publishers can use the same registration form for users with or without Facebook accounts. A user’s name, email address, birthdate, gender, and current city are automatically filled in if they’re logged in to Facebook, and publishers can ask for additional information not included in the Facebook profile. Since users see and alter the data they’re submitting, unlike with Connect, there is enhanced transparency and trust. Facebook has provided extensive documentation on how the registration tool iframe can be implemented, and an introduction complete with examples.

Connect was first released at the 2008 f8 conference to allow users to login to third-party websites with their Facebook account. The Connect brand was officially retired and the Facebook Login social plugin was released at the 2010 f8. While these prevented users from having to create a separate proprietary account on third-party websites, it still left them looking at a daunting blank login or registration screen. Publishers also had to provide distinct login flows for Facebook and non-Facebook users, with the choice between the two creating a extra step which increased friction and reduced signups.

New Registration Flow and Implementation

The registration tool’s improved flow, which Facebook has documented and diagrammed, solves both of these issues. The Facebook-themed “Register” button publishers display on their sites leads to a single form which doesn’t pre-populate forms if a user doesn’t have a Facebook account. It creates momentum towards registration for logged in users by filling in many or all of the necessary fields, allowing them to quickly begin their Facebook-enhanced experience.

The code for a standard iframe of a registration tool is:

<iframe src="http://www.facebook.com/plugins/registration.php?
client_id=113869198637480&
redirect_uri=http%3A%2F%2Fdevelopers.facebook.com
%2Ftools%2Fecho%2F&
fields=name,birthday,gender,location,email"
scrolling="auto"
frameborder="no"
style="border:none"
allowTransparency="true"
width="100%"
height="330">
</iframe>

And the code for the “Register/Login” button is:

<fb:login-button
registration-url="http://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins
/registration" />

If users aren’t logged in to Facebook when they visit a third-party site, the “Register” button will automatically read “Login”, prompt a user to enter their Facebook credentials, and then send them to the site’s pre-populated registration page. Users see a facepile of their friends who’ve also registered with the site at the bottom of the iframe, encouraging them to sign up.

Publishers are given the flexibility to append additional site-specific custom fields, such as “Favorite Movie” to the registration tool using a JSON string. These fields can use a variety of input methods including typeaheads which tap into an array of Open Graph protocol types, such as for cities. A security captcha can also be easily included. XFBML tags are support through the JavaScript SDK, and information is passed using secure signed requests.

By combining reduced friction sign up, support for non-Facebook users, and a social recommendation to join, publishers who implement the new registration tool are likely to see significantly improved sign up rates. FriendFeed, one of the beta partners for the tool where it can be seen in action, has already seen a 300% increase in Facebook sign ups. The registration tool will lead publishers to eliminate their proprietary sign up system, further increasing reliance on Facebook across the web. This in turn could prime third-party sites for integrations with direct monetization implications for Facebook which we speculated could be coming, including off-canvas Facebook Credits and an Open Graph ads plugin.