Facebook Open Graph Timeline: Get in on the Actions

After four months, Facebook is set to open its timeline actions to developers this week, according to AllThingsD. The feature is an addition to the Facebook Graph API that allows developers to assign verbs for actions users perform within applications. For example, how users now "like" things, they'll also be able to "read" articles, "play" games and "listen" to music. I would expect many, many actions to be submitted to Facebook for approval, especially related to game-specific acts. It's too early to tell how closely the social network will watch its pending list of actions, though there's a clear approval process.

As AllThingsD notes, these features require the Facebook Timeline, which is available for all users, but not yet required:

The company told developers in late December that since its Timeline profile design was being rolled out worldwide, Open Graph Actions would start being approved in January.
Currently, Facebook Timeline is available to users on an opt-in basis. At some point soon -- perhaps as early as this week -- Facebook will start requiring users to migrate to the new design.

Facebook has said it will not approve apps that weren't part of Facebook's September launch until the Timeline is available to all users. However, there is a process to submit your actions for consideration.

The actions approval steps have been in place since September. With the opening of timeline looming, developers who want in on the actions should go through the simple process, especially for existing applications with potential action.

Facebook provides some rules for actions to follow:

  • Simple. Actions must correspond to single verbs and objects must correspond to single nouns. We will reject apps that corrupt the structure of graph by adding poorly named actions and objects as well as apps publishing activity that appear to be Requests.
  • Genuine. Your app must publish Open Graph actions that are based on actions that users take in your app.
  • Non-abusive. Do not mislead, confuse, or surprise users with unexpected posts. Action and objects must be well-formed and not violate our content policies.

Despite a fairly short list of rules, there will certainly be gray areas and upset developers. It appears that Facebook simply has the best interest of its timeline in mind, but part of that may mean disallowing actions similar to its own "like," or giving partners exclusive access to some verbs. We won't know how open the Open Graph is until Facebook starts approving and rejecting actions.

The timeline isn't just available via API, it also uses APIs. There is a map-centric view that is built on the Bing Maps API. However, thanks to Facebook's special arrangement with Microsoft, Bing Maps are styled differently on Facebook.

Be sure to read the next Social article: Do We Need a Generic Social Networking API?