Facebook brings back ‘action links’ to give developers more ways to engage users directly from feed stories

Facebook has re-introduced “action links” that allow users to take specific in-app actions directly from stories in the desktop News Feed, Timeline or Ticker.

These customizable action links give developers a way for users to engage with their apps more easily, increasing the viral potential of each story. For example, Foursquare has added a “save this place” link to check-in stories, allowing users to instantly add a location to their to-do list when they see a friend’s activity on Facebook. When a user clicks an action link, a subsequent story will be shared on his or her Timeline. Before today, users could Like or comment on the activity or click to visit the app, but there weren’t app-specific calls to action that functioned this way.

Facebook first offered action links in 2008. Developers could add multiple calls to action for a single app story, which would deep link to the appropriate place within an app to take the action. In 2009, the company made action links the sole way developers could include calls to action within feed stories. This was to maintain structure and prevent developers from putting spammy messages in the body of a story or in images. Later that year, Facebook limited apps to only one action link per story, and ultimately eliminated the entire feature.

Now Facebook says action links can be part of any Open Graph story, and developers can designate an action link for any action they define in their app. Similar to the Foursquare example, Rotten Tomatoes and Goodreads could add a “want to see” or “want to read” action link on stories about a friend rating a film or book. Words With Friends might want to include a “play with this friend” or “challenge” link in its stories. This would allow users to easily begin a new game with the friend whose activity they saw in their feed. According to Facebook’s documentation, if a user has not already added an app, they can be directed to an auth dialog when they click on an action link.

Action links are not currently supported on Facebook’s mobile site or apps, and the company did not provide timing for when that might be available. It could be a while, considering Facebook hasn’t even added its own native “Share” button to mobile posts yet.