F8 – Gigya’s Facebook Conference Summary

What a week!  As we witnessed at Facebook’s F8 event, things evolve quickly with all the innovation focused on socializing the web.  It’s this kind of innovation that gets us excited, as it underscores the value Gigya delivers every day, providing the guidance and technology that ensure these changes benefit our partners’ businesses.

Here’s an outline of the key recent announcements from Facebook, highlights of the benefits to your business, and how they integrate with the Gigya service:

1.  Facebook improved the authentication service for your site

The big news: Sites are now allowed to store any data received from Facebook – you are no longer required to delete it after 24 hours. The other providers (Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, Microsoft etc.) already enable this access, so now your business can capture user data no matter which provider a user chooses. When users connect with any provider from your site, you receive their ID, name, photo, email address and other profile information, enabling you to create a rich and permanent account in your system.

Through their new set of APIs, Facebook has also improved the “connect” process. Users can give your site all necessary permissions in a single step. This process is in line with the other providers which Gigya supports, making one-step permission common across all providers now.  We are particularly excited that Facebook’s new single permission screen also tells users that by making the connection, they agree to your site’s terms of use. This means that sites no longer need to take a user through a separate ‘terms of use” step and checkbox.

We expect these two changes to significantly increase conversion rates for site registration.

This specific “connect” experience for Facebook is supported through the new OAuth 2.0 protocol which Gigya will support in May.

How will Gigya partners benefit? The new Facebook one-step connection is part of Facebook’s new API set which utilizes the OAuth 2.0 protocol. During May, Gigya will switch to the new API and automatically migrate your site to these entirely new Facebook APIs.

What are the implications for sites that are not using Gigya? Sites with direct Facebook Connect implementations will need to replace their current implementation and upgrade it to the new Facebook API set.

2. The Like button and the Open Graph

A key plugin that Facebook introduced this week is the “Like” button, which is different than “Share.”  The “Like” concept replaces the previous “Fan” concept on Facebook, and is a great opportunity for brands as it expands the number of things a user can like from just your company to any content on your website.  When you “Like” something, Facebook adds that object to your profile where the user’s friends can see it, and the web application that a user “Likes” can now send items to that user’s Facebook Newsfeed.  The reason most companies built Facebook Fan Pages originally was to enable permission-based marketing via the Facebook newsfeed.  Now your company has many more opportunities for users to grant this level of access.

So how does a website define those objects?  Facebook also announced it’s strategy to support the Open Graph protocol, which is a set of <meta> tags that can be used to mark-up a page with additional semantic information.  This mark-up defines “objects,” for example a band, artist and genre of music, or publication, journalist, topic.  The Open Graph protocol is important as it represents one of the first major steps towards a semantic web, a web capable of personalizing content and search results because it understands the links between things, like people and content, instead of just pages.

The Open Graph protocol is an open protocol, so as websites mark-up their pages, other services will be able to use this information as well.  We expect the other major social providers such as Twitter, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and Microsoft, as well as individual publishers, will start to incorporate this information into their users’ profiles and social graphs as well, and Gigya will be publishing more on the topic in the coming months.

How will Gigya partners benefit? In May, Gigya will release its “Like” widget for Facebook and other providers. The Gigya widget will automatically present each user with the relevant Like button according to their preferred provider.

What are the implications for sites that are not using Gigya? Whenever a new type of Like button is released, websites implementing directly will need to change their page design to accommodate the new button and implement it.

3. Is there more?

Facebook introduced some other interesting features. For example, site visitors will be able to see which of their Facebook friends has created an account on your site, which may encourage them to create an account as well. Facebook also enables sites to show users what their friends “Like” on that site.

As a Gigya partner, we will approach you individually to present these new features and recommend best practices to help you increase engagement and traffic.

Updated Facebook terminology for your reference:

Facebook Connect” as a product brand is now “Facebook for Web Sites”

“Facebook Connect” is being replaced by “Facebook Javascript SDK”

Facebook’s “REST API” is being replaced by “Graph API”, and uses OAuth 2.0

“Facebook Widgets” are now “Plugins

By Kevin White