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.

The ability to read or manage permissions could be used to surface existing notifications within an app or game, or to prevent an app from sending redundant notifications. This function could also improve support for third-party Facebook clients such as RockMelt.

Dialogs, Requests, and Graph API Deauthorization

Developers now have the option to exclude specific User IDs from seeing certain dialogs. This could be used to serve demographic-specific dialogs. For example, if a developer finds that females respond better to a dialog asking them to post to the walls of friends, and males respond better to a dialog requesting that they make a virtual good purchase, the developer could serve each gender a different dialog.

Caps on Requests can also be placed on specific User IDs. If a developer determines that a user is sending too many Requests, causing the app to receive negative feedback that could lead to suspension, that user could only be allowed to send a low maximum number of Requests per day.

Developers can also now revoke permissions and deauthorize apps via the Graph API, which should be useful for those testing their permissions systems. A test user could go through the permission process, a code change could be made, the test user could be deauthorized, and the permissions step could be tested again.

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