Thursday, November 18, 2010

Facebook's Page and App functionality

Over the last couple of weeks I looked into the use of Facebook in the college learning environment.  I won’t go into my motivation, except that Facebook is, of course, today’s It application.  I abandoned Twitter as an educational platform.

Two paths are available, called Page (also Fan Page) and App.  You’ll find lots of info on this and examples from a quick search, although some write-ups are a little dense.
A Page is something everyone can create in Facebook’s environment, while an App is hosted locally by the owner’s server.  Practically, a Page is limited by Facebook’s built-in (but growing) functionality, while an App only uses aspects of Facebook with modules, but otherwise its functionality is not restricted.  

Today’s Facebook Pages allow customization that mostly remove the need for an Apps, it seems.  On a Page you can add tabs that open windows that use fbml, which is Facebook’s html.  You can simply code in html (like Dreamweaver) and remove the <body> and </body> commands, and paste the rest of the html code into the Facebook tab.  You’ll need only little more knowledge than this (and many explanations via Googling), unless you do not know what html code is.
My example GC page is:  Notice the personalized tabs.

An App allows you to make your own website and open it in Facebook (Facebook uses the iframe protocol for this, if you want to know).  The advantage is that you do not need to do anything but adjust the size of your website so that is fits the Facebook window (~720px).  You can keep your site as is and add Facebook modules such a comments, links, notes.  You need to register the App with Facebook (returning a unique ID) and tweak the canvas page by adding the site’s address.  Oddly, the local site is only identified by its folder, not file name, so make sure the default page is index.html or index.php.  My corresponding GC App is here:  I did not include any Facebook modules in this page (other than a link icon), but you can click on links in that window just like in a browser.

What works best?
For now (and convenience), I stick with the Page option, because the App has higher maintenance demands when including Facebook modules, and relies on your own server’s availability (and security limits).  It seems that posting is better controlled by App than Page (hence some odd postings on my personal page), but this is at worst only inconvenient for one’s friends (and perhaps even informative for one’s friends).

I’ll try this for a while …..

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