Facebook Cracks Down on App Profile Page Spam with FBML 1.1

A core principle of Facebook’s profile page design philosophy is consistency between what you see when you are viewing your own profile and what a visitor to your profile page sees. This creates an important sense of security that you know how you look within the system.

With the advent of the Facebook platform, thousands of profile page widgets have been developed. As part of the original FBML spec, Facebook enabled application developers to detect whether the person loading a profile page was the owner or a visitor. They did this to allow apps the flexibility to show certain features and UI elements, such as widget management functions, to the profile owner directly within the profile box instead of requiring the owner to go to the canvas page.

However, some developers have exploited this functionality to effectively spam a user’s profile page box with ads that are only visible to profile visitors and not visible to the profile owner. For example, some apps are adding messages like “See photos Jenny doesn’t want you to see!” or otherwise big, obtrusive links that the profile owner would likely want to remove were they aware of their existence.

Thus, Facebook has announced significant changes to the FBML profile page spec with version 1.1 with hopes of reducing application profile page spam:

One of the key parts of the success of the design of the Facebook profile is that the user is always aware of exactly what their profile looks like to their friends who stop by to view their profile. This enables users to understand exactly how they are expressing themselves to others by simply deciding whether or not they like an application’s profile box and the content that the developer has decided to put into the box.

Right now, we have made a few FBML tags available that are causing users to not trust the content in the profile box. Tags such as: fb:if-user-has-added-app, and other fb-if tags. These tags are currently being used to deliver content to profile boxes which users are unaware of. Content such as big yellow boxes which say “ADD THIS APPLICATION!” or “ADD SOME OTHER APPLICATION!”.

Starting today, these tags will no longer be available for use in profile boxes. We will be migrating FBML to version 1.1, and adding a new set of tags called fb:visible-to-. They are:

fb:visible-to-owner
fb:visible-to-friends
fb:visiible-to-user
fb:visible-to-added-app-users
fb:visible-to-app-users

Facebook is adapting the Platform development specs rapidly and without substantial lead time. Developers are obviously incurring headaches every time changes are made, and hoping that core functionality like profile page FBML will stabilize more soon.

[tags]facebook, platform, fbml, spam[/tags]