Platform Update: Social Plugin Performance, App and Website Insights, Notifications, Requests

Facebook announced several important changes this week that impact developers of apps and social plugin-integrated websites. The latest Platform update described how developers can track app feed stories using ref parameters, and listed many new metrics that have been added to the Insights table for apps and websites. A special Developers Blog post explained how social plugins can be optimized to reduce webpage load times and Insights errors.

On October 22nd, developers will gain the ability to request permission to read and manage user notifications. Developers can now alo exclude certain User IDs from seeing dialogs or limit the number of Requests they can send, and apps can be deauthorized or have their permissions revoked via the Graph API.

New Ref Parameter and Insights Metrics

Developers can now add a ref parameter to feed dialogs, allowing them to track the performance of different dialogs in Insights. Ref parameters can added using the JavaScript SDK, PHP, or the Graph API. A “story types” drop-down will then appear in news feed section, allowing developers to see all story types or just those with a certain ref parameter. This will improve A/B testing of feed dialogs, helping developers determine what dialog design causes causes users to publish the most feed stories.

Facebook has also added the following new metrics to Insights:

Websites

  • domain_feed_clicks – The number of clicks sent to your site from stories in News Feed, Page Walls, or Profile Walls
  • domain_feed_views – The number of times people viewed stories that link to your site in News Feed, Page Walls, or Profile Walls
  • domain_stories – The number of times people posted a link to your site through an action on a social plugin or through a status message or Wall post
  • domain_widget_like_views – The number of times people viewed Like buttons on your site
  • domain_widget_likes – The number of times people clicked the Like button on your site
  • domain_widget_like_feed_views – The number of times people viewed stories generated from Like button clicks on your site
  • domain_widget_like_feed_clicks – The number of clicks sent to your site from stories in News Feed, Page Walls, or Profile Walls

Apps

  • application_api_errors_rate – Average number of errors per API request from your app
  • application_api_time_average – Average time for API requests from your app, in milliseconds
  • application_canvas_time_average – Average HTTP response time on your Canvas page, in milliseconds
  • application_canvas_errors – HTTP request errors on your Canvas page
  • application_canvas_errors_rate – Average number of errors per canvas request of your app
The new website metrics will help admins assess the performance of their Like buttons and the stories they generate. This will help them optimize placement and design of the social plugin on their site, as well as determine the most compelling content to have Like stories display. The new app metrics will help developers assess the quality of their code and determine if new features are increasing error rates or slowing down response time.

Improving Social Plugin Performance

Facebook now offers custom channelUrl and asynchronous loading that decrease load times. The improvements are most pronounced when loading plugins  with Internet Explorer, “where the load time of a test website with 5 XFBML plugins improves from 1.10 seconds to 0.43 seconds.” The custom channelUrl prevents Facebook from having to load a second copy of a webpage in a hidden iframe, which slows loading and can causes inflation of referral traffic numbers in Insights to appear inflated.

Asynchronous loading also increases plugin rendering speed, which can improve search engine optimization. See the Developers Blog post for specifics on how to integrate these updates.

Manage_notifications

Facebook said that this week it would add the ability for developers to “access a user’s notifications via the Graph API using the notifications connection on the me identifier.” On October 22nd, apps will be required to retrieve the manage_notifications permission in order to read or manipulate a user’s notifications. Developers can enable the migration for this change in the Advanced tab of the Developer app settings.