I'm Ryan Waggoner. I build things. I blog about how to work harder and smarter to build the life you want. You should subscribe.

I’m done building Facebook apps for clients


Posted in Development, Entrepreneurship, Personal, Posts, Reviews, Social Media, Technology by

I started building Facebook apps about three years ago, when I first started doing web development consulting full-time. My first apps were simple affairs, but over time they grew more complex and I leveraged the platform features more and more.

Over the last three years, I’ve spent an increasing amount of time on the Facebook platform. This year I built applications for Neutrogena and IHOP, both moderately complex, and I also spent a decent chunk of time this year working on several social games on Facebook. Working on Facebook has always been an exercise in frustration, because they’re constantly changing and breaking the platform. The documentation was also always a little lacking, but it was setup as a wiki, and developers added to it over time and made it at least somewhat useful.

Then in April 2010, Facebook decided to completely revamp the platform and roll out a series of new APIs, complete with new methods for authentication and new documentation. They deprecated the wiki and apparently hired the worst technical documentation guy they could find to write the docs. They’re incomplete, inaccurate, and contain very little sample code, context, and otherwise useful info. And the new APIs don’t even work half the time; there are bugs in the tracker that have been there for months, interrupting core functionality. The only place to really find any kind of useful info is the forums, which means hours of searching to find even basic info. Often this info is posted by people at Facebook, but they never bother to put it in the official documentation. I’ve worked with APIs from 2-man startups that offered a better experience, so it’s especially sad to have to deal with this from a platform with 500 million people on it.

Now, if you’re building your own apps and you’re making money, I’m sure these annoyances might be worth putting up with. But when you’re building for clients, it’s just a source of stress. Clients don’t care that it was Facebook (not you) who broke the feature that was working yesterday, and they don’t care that what you said you could do two months ago can no longer be done because Facebook decided to change the platform (again). They blame you for all of it.

So I’m done. The money is good and there’s a lot of work, but the stress and frustration just isn’t worth it. Until Facebook decides to implement some controls to stabilize the development of the platform and write some documentation that’s actually semi-useful, I’ll work somewhere else.

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80 Responses to “I’m done building Facebook apps for clients”

  1. Joppe says:

    Yeah, you’r right. It is frustrating that things get changed all the time. But I guess they are chaining stuff for a reason? Not just because they feel like it?

    Every time we take on a FB client, we explain very carefully to them that FB is not static and it could stop working any minute, without notice. If the client is fine with this, we move forward. If the app breaks, we fix it, and get paid doing it. So we don’t really have any problem…we make money when FB changes stuff. Frustrating? Yeah, sure, but we get paid for it.

  2. Boris says:

    True, true, true…

  3. chris says:

    That’s terrible. This actually sounds worse than paypal. At least PayPal doesn’t change the API once they have it released.

  4. Mark says:

    My biggest frustration was with their removal of apps sending notifications to users. When you’re making a 3rd party “connect” site (i.e. one that just hooks up to the authentication) and not a full facebook app the only way to personalize communication with the user was through a notification. After about 2 months of selling a shopping cart plugin which utilized this feature FB announced that they would remove the ability of apps sending notifications. Now, any real 3rd party site that isn’t just a commenting system has to ask for your e-mail address. I’m sure this disrupts the massive registration conversion numbers FB loves to squawk about. Now the registration is more complicated for users… they have to connect with FB, let the site steal all of their info, and then still supply the site with their email. It’s just a bad experience.

    FB do not understand the needs of 3rd party connect sites, they only think about what Zynga needs or wants.

  5. [...] what about the developer or team building these things? Well, one developer has decided that the frustration of Facebook API is just too much, which leads to an interesting point. Is developing apps on APIs and systems that [...]

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  7. thax for the information i like it.

  8. [...] Building Facebook Apps for Clients [...]

  9. [...] Building Facebook Apps for Clients [...]

  10. mem says:

    On the last week, I've change the way I communicate with the API I dn't know how many times. Countless. It's absolutly frustrating and I regret the day I said: integrating fb? No prob. Sure is! And a big one. :<

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