Facebook Canvas Apps vs Facebook Connect for Websites: A Quick Guide to What’s Best for You

Facebook Marketing Bible

Facebook offers two parts of its platforms for developers, brands, and media publishers to build on. One is the Facebook canvas — the pages on Facebook.com where apps are located — and the other is Facebook Connect, the catch-all name for a variety of ways to integrate Facebook off the site.

We’ve written out a brief guide below for marketers and developers who are thinking about where to build, with advice for specific goals like gaining widespread visibility or directly monetizing users.

Note that while Facebook itself stopped using the “Connect” term in 2010, it’s still commonly used inside and outside the company to refer to non-canvas options, mainly the Graph API and the Open Graph protocol, but also Instant Personalization on third-party websites, “Facebook for Wesbsites”(which are Facebook social plugins), as well as other features, like its single sign-on service for Facebook-integrated mobile apps.

For reference, Facebook Canvas apps are built in HTML iframes on Facebook.com as their own properties or as tabs on Facebook Pages. Connect sites are typically standard websites that have been augmented with Facebook functionality through embedded plugins and calls to Facebook’s APIs.

Accessibility

Canvas Apps are readily accessible to Facebook’s enormous user base, though all their users must have a Facebook account. They can quickly navigate to them via search, through posts mentioning them in their news feed, or through their Facebook bookmarks in the site’s left sidebar Since roughly half of all Facebook users return to the site each day, these bookmarks may receive a lot of impressions.

Canvas apps are not accessible from mobile devices (although some developers create mobile apps that closely pattern themselves after canvas apps). Giving an app extended permissions feels like a more natural part of the Facebook experience when on Canvas. Apps that don’t require any private information or access can instantly use a Facebook user’s public information without requiring any log in or permissions since users are already logged in.

Canvas apps are best for developers looking to target users who likely to already be Facebook users.

Connect Sites don’t require users to have a Facebook account if the app can function without a user’s Facebook information, making them accessible to the entire internet. They can be accessed from mobile devices. Users can use traditional browser bookmarks to find their way back to Connect sites.

Connect Sites are best for sites that would benefit from Facebook information but don’t require it, and that are targeted at demographics that may be less likely to have Facebook accounts, such as seniors and those from developing countries.

Growth and Virality

Canvas Apps have a “built in audience” or can quickly convert Facebook users into their own users. Users may feel more comfortable publishing content to Facebook from Canvas Apps since they’re already on Facebook and in a sharing mindset. When users install a Canvas app, it may generate an App Discovery news feed story, informing their friends of the install and bringing new users to the app. Users can @ mention Canvas apps in their posts.



Connect Sites may have less virality because users are less comfortable sharing off-site actions to Facebook. However, a reputable brand may be able to outweigh this apprehension. Both Canvas and Connect apps can use Facebook’s friend invite system.

Content and Appearance

Canvas Apps must live within Facebook’s user interface, and therefore are somewhat restricted in the overall aesthetic experience they present. In terms of content, it may be more difficult to pull data streams from third-party sites and social networks such as Twitter into Canvas apps. Users are accustomed to rapidly clicking around Facebook and switching from one Page to the next, so Canvas apps are best kept simple and punchy, or should be designed with mechanisms to keep users engaged or frequently revisiting.