Facebook Platform is a Rough Ride

June 21, 2007

Facebook has become a monster. The popular social networking website has millions of users worldwide, including over 500k in Toronto alone, and grows roughly 3% a week. Our own FreshBooks User Group, hosted on Facebook, already has 80+ members – okay, not as impressive, but we’re still pretty excited about it.

Several weeks ago, the Facebook team launched the Facebook Platform, a way for developers and companies to create their own applications inside the Facebook mega-verse. As an avid Facebook user with too much time on my hands, I thought I’d fool around and create my own Facebook app. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing – here’s some thoughts on my experience.

Where’s the “Dummies” guide?

When the Facebook Platform was first released, documentation was sparse. The best source of information was the sample application provided, which didn’t work (for me) straight out of the box. All I wanted was “Hello, World”, but after a full night of debugging with no success, I had lost interest and was ready to call it quits. It wasn’t until they added a step-by-step walkthrough and a developer Wiki before I tried my hand again.

Is anybody listening?

Facebook has a developer forum for platform-related questions, and it’s generally pretty busy. When I posted a new thread on some difficulties I’d been having, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many follow up posts by fellow Facebook users trying to lend a hand. Unfortunately, none of their suggestions worked, and 12 thread replies and a week later, I still didn’t have an answer.

It turns out I’m not alone – there are a number of long forum threads like mine to which no one has an answer, and it feels like the Facebook developers have been totally absent. With an estimated 50+ developers on staff, can’t a few take some time to reply to threads and throw out some life preservers? (Yeah, I totally made up that number.)

What I’ve learned

As the lead FreshBooks API developer, I realize I’m playing with fire here. We’re weeks away from releasing our new-and-improved FreshBooks API, and someone could be writing the very same about us shortly.

Still, I think this experience has taught me a few things, and I think the team and I have put together a better product as a result. Keep an eye out for a brand new API documentation page, “getting started” sample code, and a developer forum where we’ll be actively answering questions. Our goal isn’t just to add new features and functions; we want to get you up and building apps as painlessly as possible.

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.