Causes Is the Only App Whitelisted to Like Pages Through the Facebook API

Earlier this year, Facebook gave the Causes application access to a special API that allowed the app to simultaneously Like multiple Pages on a user’s behalf. Stories generated by these Likes led to rapid growth for Causes.

Other developers have hoped to utilize the functionality, but those trying to make the same API call receive an error. Facebook tells us that the API was part of a test and is considering if there is a way to offer the functionality to other developers while maintaining the quality of the Facebook user experience.

Causes, one of the original Facebook Platform launch partners, allows users to add charities they want to help to their Causes profile. Users could also opt to install a Causes application box for certain charities on the profile in order to share the charity with friends. Until Facebook Pages launched, Causes and these profile boxes were some of the only ways for charities to have a presence on Facebook. Around the time of f8, Facebook launched a transition tool for turning static elements of user profiles into connections to Pages — or Likes.

In August, Facebook turned off application profile boxes. In anticipation of this, Facebook sought to give Causes users an alternative way to display charities in their profiles, as well as receive updates from them directly since many now had Pages. To do this, Facebook allowed Causes to Like Pages on the behalf of users through the API.

The app began showing a pop-up on the Causes home page allowing users to select multiple causes from their Causes profile and profile box and add them to the Likes and interests section of their Facebook profile with one click through the API. Users were also given the opportunity to come back to the conversion tool later, or choose individual causes to Like. Each Like made through this API generated a story, which led those who clicked the story back to Causes, contributing to the rapid recent growth of the app, as you can see the excerpt below from our premium application metrics and trends monitor, Appdata Pro.

Previously, apps could never Like things on a user’s behalf, making this a significant shift in Facebook protocol. Other app developers were at first confused, filing a bug report in June. Making the special API call returned the error “{“error”:{“type”:”OAuthException”,”message”:”(#3) Application must be on whitelist”}}”. By August it was discovered that the only application on the whitelist was Causes, causing some other app developers to become disgruntled by what they perceived as Causes receiving special treatment.

When asked about the potential for other apps to be added to the whitelist, Facebook responded: “We worked with Causes to enable a specific use-case, where a user’s cause-related connections could be immediately reflected on Facebook. While we believe this is valuable for people who use Causes, we’re continuing to test how and if to open up the functionality more broadly. Specifically, we’re looking at how to enable similar use-cases while protecting for spam and inconsistent experiences on the platform.”

While opening up the Page Like API to more developers could stimulate creation of a new style of applications which offer value to users, it could also be used to dupe users into connecting to multiple unwanted Pages. The potential for unfair inflation of the Like counts of certain Pages or for users to accidentally flood their feeds with updates from Pages they didn’t Like directly are some use cases which are probably scaring Facebook away from rolling out the API. For now, developers will have to wait on Facebook’s decision.