Facebook makes changes to Open Graph policy to reduce frictionless sharing, improve user experience

Facebook today announced a number of changes to its Open Graph guidelines and platform policies to cut down on practices that users find spammy or unwelcome.

Developers can no longer automatically share a user’s consumption of content unless they use built-in actions “Like,” “Watch,” “Read,” “Listen” or “Follow.” Apps with custom verbs must make sharing that action opt-in so as not to surprise or confuse users. For example, an app can not automatically publish that a user “browsed” a collection after they visit a section of an online store. The app can instead include buttons for active sharing, such as “want” or “favorite.”

This does not affect games, promotions or other apps where users take an explicit action that can then be shared. Earning a high score, claiming a coupon or pinning a photo, for example, would still be acceptable. Apps like Foodily, which shares that users “found” an item when they click on a recipe link, will have to change. Rotten Tomatoes, which previously shared when users “checked out reviews,” seems to have already removed this action. More information about what qualifies as “content consumption” is available here.

Facebook is also eliminating “authenticated referrals,” which is when clicking a link from Facebook takes users directly to an app’s permission dialog rather than a page with more context. This happened frequently with social news and video applications. A user would see an article or video in their feed and click on it, but instead of being taken directly to the content, they were hit with an auth dialog. Facebook announced this option last year at f8 and encouraged developers to use it to guarantee that all users navigating to an app from the social network would be logged in. Although this helped some apps like SocialCam and Yahoo Social Bar quickly gain millions of new users, it turned out to be a poor user experience in most instances.

Facebook is no longer allowing apps to post to a friend’s wall via the API. The company says these actions generated high levels of negative user feedback, including “hides” and “mark as spam.” There is still an option for apps to use the “feed dialog” for a similar effect and apps can include user mentions or tagging, which will appear on a friend’s Timeline after a user approves the tag.

To further ensure quality apps, Facebook added the following to its platform policies:

“Quality of content: you are responsible for providing users with a quality experience and must not confuse, defraud, mislead, spam or surprise users. For example, you must monitor your app’s negative feedback in Application Insights to ensure it stays below our thresholds, avoid excessive advertisements or bugs, and ensure the description of your app is consistent with your app’s content.”

Besides the restrictions announced today — which go into effect in 90 days — Facebook announced that it would make some Open Graph stories more prominent in News Feed and on Timeline. The company says its new image-led Open Graph stories receive 70 percent more clicks and up to 50 times more Likes than equivalent story types from before. Similarly, the new location stories provide double-digit gains in distribution to apps. Developers looking to increase distribution and engagement for their app stories should use Open Graph rather than the Graph API or “stream.publish.” See the differences below.