An Introduction to Facebook Platform

Last updated January 17, 2013

Debuted in May 2007, the Facebook Platform provides a set of APIs and tools enabling third-party developers to integrate with the “open graph” through applications on or external websites and devices. The platform allows users to interact with their Facebook friends while playing games, listening to music, watching movies, reading news, and engaging in other activities.

The platform was initially used to host applications in tabs on a user’s page, but has since been more practically used by websites with Facebook Connect. According to a new study by website monitoring service Pingdom, 24.3% of the top 10,000 websites in the world now feature some sort of Facebook integration on their home page. At the end of March 2012, more than 9 million apps and websites integrated with Facebook.

More recently, Facebook has suggested that the future of its platform is in web and mobile integrations which is evident with the Instagram acquisition and new standalone Camera application.

The Facebook Platform allows for applications to interact with your data on Facebook service standards. Developers have used Facebook as a portal of all the data you need. Facebook is now becoming ‘part of the Web’s DNA’. The platform has worked to leverage Facebook as the number one social media site as it is far ahead of competitors in web integration.

What is the Platform?

The Facebook Platform is a set of development tools and application programming interfaces (APIs) that enables developers to easily integrate with Facebook to create social apps and websites and to reach the 900 million Facebook users. The platform allows for developers to create better products that are personalized and social. It offers new ways for our users to engage with friends and share experiences across the web and on mobile devices. For example, a Facebook user can visit the Pandora website and immediately begin listening to a personalized radio station that is customized based on the bands the user Likes on Facebook.

The platform gives developers the ability to recreate almost any Facebook function in their own apps, whether it’s uploading a photo, RSVPing to an event, checking into a location, and more. Apps can also use information or actions from a users’ profiles to personalize a user’s experience. For example, a music app like Spotify can show a list of friends who have liked an artist or listened to their music. A promotional Budweiser app can prevent users under 21 from viewing its contents. A retailer’s website can personalize its pages based on whether a user is male or female, how old they are, whether they are married or have kids, etc. Rather than every new app asking users to fill in unique profiles or trying to rebuild the social graph, they can simply build on top of Facebook and take advantage of the information and connections that are already there.

It also gives developers access to social channels that help apps grow quickly among friends. News Feed, wall posts, requests, notifications, etc. Third-party apps and websites are no longer isolated experiences. They can get distribution in the same places users are already visiting to discover things about their friends.

Key elements of the Facebook Platform include:

  • Open Graph. The Open Graph is a set of APIs that developers can use to build apps and websites that enable users to share their activities with friends on Facebook. For example, a user who is listening to music through a developer’s app or website can publish his or her music selections to Facebook where the music can be shared with friends.

  • Social Plugins. Social plugins are social features that developers can easily integrate with their websites by incorporating a single line of HTML code. For example, a developer can put a box on its website that shows Facebook users what their friends have Liked and recommended on the site. Social plugins also allow users to easily share interesting content back to Facebook that can be distributed to their friends through News Feed, Timeline, and Ticker. The following features are examples of functionality provided through social plugins.


  • Like Button. Allows users to share content from a third-party website to Facebook and their friends with one click.

  • Recommendations. Allows a website to display to Facebook users what their friends have recommended.


  • Single Sign-On Registration and Log-In. Allows users to easily sign up for access to third-party websites with their Facebook accounts, eliminating the need for users to create another username and password.

  • Comments. Allows users to post their views, questions, and critiques on any piece of content on a website.


  • Payments. Facebook provides an online payments infrastructure that enables developers to receive payments from users through an efficient and secure system. Developers can focus on creating engaging apps and content rather than spending time and resources to build payment processing and fraud management capabilities. Users can store their payment credentials with Facebook in a trusted and safe environment, facilitating easy and fast purchases across the Facebook Platform rather than having to re-authenticate and re-enter payment information for each developer. The Payments infrastructure is designed to streamline the buying process between users and developers. The Payments system enables users to purchase virtual or digital goods from developers and third-party websites by using debit and credit cards, PayPal, mobile phone payments, gift cards or other methods.

  • Apps on Facebook. Apps on Facebook run within the Facebook website. Social games are currently the most successful apps on Facebook. The Facebook Platform has also enabled new types of social apps on Facebook beyond games to facilitate social sharing and discovery of music, news, television programming, and everyday interests such as cooking, fitness, and travel. For example, The Washington Post Social Readeris an app on Facebook that offers a personalized news reading experience in which each user sees a unique set of stories tailored to the user’s interests and based on what his or her friends are reading. Assuming the user has given the app permission, stories read by a user are instantly shared with friends, creating a socially powered newswire of relevant articles. Apps on Facebook generally have Facebook ads visible on the right side of the page and can integrate with Facebook Payments.

  • Desktop Apps. Developers can also build desktop apps that run on the operating system of a personal computer and offer experiences that are integrated with the Facebook Platform. For example, Spotify, an online music service, provides a desktop app integrated with Facebook that offers a social listening experience by giving users the ability to share their playlists, listen to songs with friends, and explore new music through their friends.

  • Mobile Apps. The Facebook Platform for mobile has enabled developers to create engaging mobile apps that integrate with Facebook’s social and personalization capabilities.

  • Platform-Integrated Websites. Websites can integrate with Facebook using simple social plugins such as the Like button or design more deeply integrated social experiences built around users and their friends. For example, by tapping into rich social data, TripAdvisor connects users to their friends and shares relevant content about where their friends have traveled and where they would like to visit in the future. While on the TripAdvisor website, friends can discuss their travel plans and recommendations and build out personal profiles of places they have been.

Also From Inside Network: AppData | PageData | Inside Facebook | Inside Virtual Goods | Inside Social Games | Inside Mobile Apps

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