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The Facebook API: Somewhat Disappointing

May 07, 2007 | 1 Minute Read

I had read a few months back or so about Facebook coming up with a developer API. I hadn’t really felt like trying anything with it until recently when I heard about the FQL (like SQL for Facebook) Query language being created.

Anyway, I tried to think of a few ideas for mini-apps using the API, and today I finally got around to messing with it. I hit a roadblock pretty quickly, though. Apparently Facebook’s API will let you find all of the current user’s friends, but it won’t let you see all of the friends of any other user. This seriously limits the capabilities of the API by a whole lot.

This sort of makes sense. If the API let you see more than a logged in user could, that user could theoretically get past privacy setting that are in place. However, the API just blocks all queries that try to find all friends of anyone other than yourself. When logged in, you can see this info, so I don’t see the harm in offering it in the API.

What this means is that there’s no way to really “traverse graphs” with the API. You only get info on the user’s immediate friends. Thus, any application using the API is really only rehashing or using data that is already available on the main site. That’s fine for simple applications that can sync your address book to Facebook or let you rate how hot your friends are.

But Facebook is a social networking site. The interesting applications require some kind of access to the graph data of the site. It’s really disappointing to see that the API limits this so much.

I really would’ve liked to see a bit more capability with the Facebook API. If Facebook really wants developers to come up with interesting and complex applications, I’d suggest opening it up a bit more.