In-Depth: A Line-by-Line Look at Facebook’s Updated Platform Developer Policies

As part of its game-focused product updates, Facebook changed a wide range of policies around what developers can and can’t do on the platform. The company has broadly grouped its dozens of changes into three main areas, with the overall move being to make many more options available to developers.

The changes include new or heavily revised policies, policies that are being turned into best practices (and so are no longer required), those that are getting removed due to now-redundant language or larger product changes.

At its announcement event yesterday, Facebook executives explained that the more lenient policies are partly the result of the product changes. Because it will not show news feed stories from games to non-players, for example, it is greatly increasing the variety of news feed stories that it can show to gamers.

The documentation, which you can view in its full current form here, also has a guide that includes brief description of Facebook’s rationale for each change. We’ve organized it by type of change, below, for easier reading. Each item that has somehow been altered appears below, in bold, and is followed by Facebook’s verbatim rationale as stated in the above document; in some places, we add our own commentary, in italics.

Also, note that all document numbers below reflect the previous version of the document, from July 27, 2010. We’ve included the numbering for new or revised current policies where applicable. For each section below, the bolded text is a policy from the previous version that Facebook has made some sort of change to.

Revised Policies

V.1   You must not incentivize users to grant additional permissions or use Application Integration Points.

Facebook’s New Replacement Policy states: You must not incentivize users to use (or gate content behind the use of) Facebook communication channels, or imply that an incentive is directly tied to the use of our channels.

Our thoughts: Facebook has long been trying to crack down on this practice, as it distorts normal social interactions between players to get them playing more games, and thereby interferes with the overall Facebook experience. The effectiveness of incentives around communication channels, of course, has made these tactics a hit with developers.

The policy can be found under IV.1 now.

V.3     You must not prompt users to send invitations, requests, publish a Stream story or use other Facebook communication channels immediately after a user allows access or returns to your application.

Facebook’s New Replacement Policy states: You must not prompt new users to send invitations immediately after they connect with your application.

Our thoughts: This appears to make it easier for users to send requests and publish to the stream. Requests are now located within the left-hand navigation bar and only existing users of the app will see stream stories, so the possibility of spam is reduced.

The policy can be found under IV.6 now.

V.4 You must provide users with a “skip” button on any page where users are prompted to use a Facebook communication channel (e.g., invitations and requests) that is adjacent to and the same height and design of the send option. If a user chooses to “skip” you must not present the user with a similar prompt during that user’s visit to your application.

Facebook’s rationale: We are replacing this policy after receiving feedback that we were interfering with game design and mechanics. With the new policy, you have discretion as to where you place the skip option (e.g., right next to the send option or by using an “X” in a dialog box), but our expectation is that users are able to easily find this option. For example, an “X” in a dialog box will be sufficient, provided it is not so small that a user would have trouble finding it. In addition, a “skip” button near any send option is sufficient provided no efforts are made to hide the skip option from users. New Replacement Policy states: You must provide users with an easily identifiable “skip” option whenever you present users with an option to use a Facebook communication channel. If a user chooses to “skip” you must not present the user with the same prompt during that user’s visit to your application.