It has been 3 years since Facebook last organized the F8, the large conference dedicated to developers. If the 2014 edition had not revealed any developments as significant as the implementation of Timeline in 2011, a few announcements made this year were nevertheless noteworthy for advertisers and developers using the platform.
Here is a summary of 7 takeaways for Facebook marketers:
1. Publishers can allow anonymous access to attract internet users that are concerned about sharing their personal information
To attract users concerned about the security of their personal information, Facebook now offers anonymous access. This capability is still in beta and not yet available to everyone. Users can access your application without sharing anything else than an anonymous ID, which enables you to recognize them on desktop, tablet or mobile devices, as long as they’re connected to Facebook in another browser tab on the same device.
Users now have a simple way to try out an app through a seamless registration process. Later on, publishers can ask for users’ email address and other information, when user interest has peaked. This new feature will make it much easier to entice users to create accounts on sites where necessary.
2. Facebook launches its Facebook Audience Network to place advertising in native apps
Already a very effective promoter of mobile apps with Mobile Apps Install ads, Facebook will become a big player in mobile media, giving Google a run for its money. For the first time, Facebook will be deploying its advertising outside of its platform, using the new Facebook Audience Network (FAN) on Facebook Mobile.
And because Facebook login is widely used as a means of authentication for mobile apps, and will be even more widely used with anonymous access, the social network knows the apps users have already installed in the past, as well as the ones they are currently using. This development will give advertisers unrivaled targeting capability for their ads.
3. Users can pick and choose which information to share with publishers
Facebook Login is the easiest way for users to register on an app with the least amount of friction.
Facebook now gives users the ability to be very specific in the information that they intend to share with developers. For example, a user can give permission to share his/her first name and last name, but not his/her email address.
As a consequence, app developers must verify what information the user consents to provide and make sure to provide an alternative flow for those users who refuse to grant access to their private information.
4. A more limited access to users’ friends list and information
Facebook applications will no longer be given access to users’ full friends list. Gone are apps based on friends’ posts or birth dates or where users can browse profiles or friends of friends.
However, the following two points are worth noting:
- The list of friends having already authorized the app is available. Features such as “Friends leader board” is still possible.
- Facebook’s friends list subset algorithm provides access to two partial lists of friends: “Invitable Friends” and “Taggable Friends”. It’s easy to understand why: only friends who usually accept invitations to join apps or accept being tagged in photos will be part of these groups. By targeting users who typically accept invitations to install applications, this helps to improve the conversation rate of invites.
The “Invitable friends” list can only be used to send requests for canvas Game apps on Facebook, and nothing else.
Finally, the end of access to the friends list means the end of access to users’ friends’ information.
Where it was previously possible to collect some information about friends of users such as name, photos, likes, this is no longer the case. All API methods of accessing information about users’ friends will no longer work.
Facebook provides access to the names and profile pictures of “Invitable Friends”, but without Facebook ID, there is not much that Facebook advertisers can get out of it.
5. Facebook will manually approve applications that require more than the basic authorizations
By default, when users authorize a Facebook app, they give the app access to their first name, last name, gender and profile picture, also known as the “public profile”. If an app requires more information than the public profile, the email address, or the list of friends who have already played on the app, Facebook will conduct a manual verification like Apple does with iOS. Publishers will then have to justify why their app requires access to information like pictures, likes, or events that a user attends.
As with OpenGraph, there is a fixed approval period. According to Facebook, it may take 7-14 days for such authorization to happen.
This is important, because:
- This delay must be factored in production
- Unlike OpenGraph, if Facebook refuses to let you use an authorization, it can have an impact on the app’s mechanics and require an app redesign.
Hopefully, Facebook will eventually be able to process such requests as quickly as Open Graph submissions, which only take a few days or sometimes even a few hours.
6. End of access to the Facebook User ID as we know it
Before F8, when a user authorized an application, Facebook shared his or her Facebook User ID with the developer. Now, Facebook sends a user identifier (ID) specific to the app, which is not linked in any way to the Facebook User ID. In other words, a user no longer has the same ID from one app to another.
Facebook has devised a solution for businesses that publish many Facebook apps and who want users to have the same ID within its apps. It’s called Business Mapping API. Each app needs to be linked to the same “Business” publisher in order for this to work.
Finally, it will no longer be technically possible to use Facebook User ID as the key to link data about users’ activity on a Facebook page with their activities across apps. This used to be possible due to a technical loophole, but was prohibited according to the Platform Policies.
7. New apps must now support API 2.0
This technical detail may have an impact on your next campaign. Even though Facebook states that the API 1.0 version is still available for another year, all new apps created from now on should be V 2.0 compliant. This means that if you plan to launch an app next month, you must either recycle an old app based on API 1.0, or ensure that your concept follows the new V 2.0 rules well.
With these changes, Facebook is essentially trying to assuage users’ fears about sharing personal information. The challenge once again is to preserve user experience and prevent spam in order to increase time spent on Facebook, which can only benefit brands wishing to take advantage of it.