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Facebook Apps

I seem to have been posting a lot of Linux related stories lately, and although I’m planning to update everyone on my experiences with Ubuntu 7.10, I’m going to leave that for a week or so until I can give it a really good review. I thought I’d have a bit of a change this time and write about programming languages.

I have had experience of many languages in the past few years, including ASP, HTML, CSS, VB, VB Script, JSP, Batch, Python, Shell Scripts and many others, but apart from HTML and CSS, I have never really taken to a programming language well. The only language I have had a lot of experience with is PHP. It seems that PHP has become the standard language for web applications these days, especially the open source ones, and all of the applications I run on my sites (PHPBB, WordPress, Mediawiki) use it, so it’s inevitable that I have picked up some skills in that area by poking around, adding new features, fixing bugs etc…

Only recently I have started looking into learning PHP to code professionally. I have started small by building some simple applications, scripts to access MySQL and MS Access databases and am really enjoying it so far, and it’s a great rush of excitement when you finally get a script doing what you want it to do.

After all the recent publicity around Facebook’s API and the associated applications I started looking into the technical side of things and how the Apps were built, as well as how they were linked into the user’s Facebook account. Remarkably 90% of the work is done by the developers own web server, which stores the code and manages adding and configuring the App, with the results appearing integrated into the Facebook site.

It’s quite a nifty system, based on PHP, with Facebook’s own mark-up language (FBML) similar to HTML. It also allows you to extract any information from the user’s Facebook profile and add it into your application. Facebook’s own documentation on this is sparse, although they do provide a sample application and the PHP5 library which you need to install (and configure with API keys and so on) to link your site to Facebook. Fortunately I managed to find a great page which gives newbie developers a much more useful guide to developing Facebook Apps.

My first application is small, but it seems to work well. It’s basically a ClassicKidsTV box which provides the site’s logo, with a link to the site and some additional text, I have also played around with the confirmation page so that it drags through the user’s name, and I plan to add in some functionality that will grab the user’s favourite Television shows and then ask them to add some Classic Kids shows to it!

Facebook Application

It’s only an initial release, buggy and fairly useless to most people, but I really enjoyed coding it, and given that there are currently only around 6,000 applications on Facebook (compared to it’s 47 million members) I feel it’s quite an achievement!

Jonathan

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