If you’re a Facebook Page Owner or business user, it’s almost certain that you’ve encountered Facebook Markup Language (FBML) at some point. Until recently, it was the primary technology used to develop Facebook applications and custom Facebook Tabs. But the Facebook technology landscape is rapidly shifting, and a result of this is that platforms, APIs and toolsets for developers are in a constant state of flux.
One of the casualties of this ongoing state of evolution has been FBML code, which has been deprecated (as described in this blog post from Facebook). But what exactly is FBML, and what impact does its deprecation have for businesses and developers executing on Facebook?
The Facebook Platform was released in the second quarter of 2007 to enable developers to create web-based applications that were tightly integrated into the Facebook experience. The flagship technology, FBML, was used to describe the layout of elements within the applications. FBML consisted of two sets of elements:
- A subset of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language): this enabled developers to include standard web page elements in their Facebook applications such as links, images and tables.
- Facebook specific markup: using these elements, developers could add Facebook specific functionality to their applications, such as adding comment boxes, adding ‘Like’ buttons and allowing users to publish status updates directly from the application.
The Facebook development team announced in August 2010 that in order to standardise the development of applications on the Facebook platform across tabs, canvases and third-party websites, FBML would be deprecated. This meant that as of March 2011, FBML applications could no longer be created; although Facebook would continue to support existing FBML applications after this date.
What about XFBML?
Extensible Facebook Markup Language (XFBML) is related to FBML in that it provides a way for developers to quickly and easily markup Facebook elements (comment boxes, share buttons, ‘Like’ buttons, etc.). The key difference is that FBML was used for applications on Facebook Tabs and Canvases. XFBML, on the other hand, provides a way for web-masters to include these elements on their own sites (as opposed to applications on Facebook.com).
XFBML is still (and will continue to be) supported by Facebook.
Although FBML was the quickest and easiest way for developers to customise the Facebook experience (especially when paired with the also recently defunct ‘Static FBML Tab’ application), there is an extensive library of other tools that can be used to achieve this.
IFrames and the Facebook API
Facebook provides an Application Programming Interface (API) that can be accessed by developers using a range of programming languages to leverage the Facebook Platform. Developers can create a web page that utilises the API, and then pull this into Facebook as a tab or canvas application using an ‘IFrame’.
Free Static Tab Applications
There are also a number of free solutions that enable Page Owners to easily add simple landing tabs to their pages by uploading images or sections of plain HTML. Some examples of these solutions include:
Third-Party Content management solutions
The easiest and most robust solution is to utilise a full-featured content management tool, such as the Buddy Media Platform. These tools enable Page Owners to quickly add, edit and remove dynamic content and interactive widgets from their Facebook Tabs without requiring any technical Facebook knowledge. This also means that any future technical changes to the Facebook Platform are not a concern for the Page Owner, as they are dealt with by the Solutions provider.
What does the death of FBML mean for you and your business? How are you dealing with it? Tell us in the Comments below!