Friday, 23 October 2020

Facebook's Ring-fence Breaks More of the Internet

Facebook's Latest Ring-fence Breaks More of the Internet
Facebook wants to BE the Internet to as many people as possible; and in order to prevent any of its content (Facebook's content, not yours!), Facebook's latest ring-fence will break more of the Internet.

From October 24, Facebook  changes the way it handles embeds on other sites, dropping support for the oEmbed open API and requiring the use of its own API’s. Pasted links from Facebook and Instagram in WordPress will no likely longer work. 

Why? Facebook doesn't want ANY content from Facebook or Instagram available outside of Facebook or Instagram. It's like Hotel California; Facebook wants you inside it's ring fence and never leave. Any time you view Facebook content anywhere else, they can't throw Facebook ads at you. Sharing and embedding does not fit with the business model. Any way that Facebook can shut users off from the rest of the Internet increases the value of it's content. Which is disingenuous since it's not Facebook's content - it's yours.

What's Changing?

Using the Facebook oEmbed API, you could simply paste a link to a Facebook or Instagram post in your WordPress post. WordPress would take that URL and neatly embed it into the post. From Saturday, this stops, with a possibility that existing embeds stop working as well, breaking existing posts and pages.

Using Facebook's API requires you create a developer account, register an app, add an oEmbed Product to that app, create an access token and use their embed format. That's it. That's their solution.

WordPress as a platform can't sign you up for that Developer account, or register itself as an app, or authorise ownership over other apps. As a result, Facebook and Instagram embeds are dropped from WordPress core 5.5.2.

The whole developer account / app creation thing is just not viable for most Wordpress users.

What's the alternative?

You could use Facebook’s method. Or not. Otherwise, the alternatives look like:
  • Use the oEmbed Plus WordPress plugin. This reinstates embedding for Facebook and Instagram content. Unfortunatley this still requires a Facebook developer account and an app ID.
  • Use Smash Balloon’s updated Facebook and Instagram plugins. These should keep oEmbed and all your existing embeds working. These come in free and paid versions, so the features you want might come at a price.
  • Use the Jetpack Wordpress plugin. The development team came to an agreement with Facebook to keep embedding working in Jetpack 9.0. as long as you connect your site to Jetpack.

Conclusion

As shoddy attempts to hijack yet more user content and ring-fence more of the Internet goes, this is more of the same from Facepunch. Making it harder to leave is thoroughly embedded in the business model. Sharing to Facebook rather than sharing from Facebook has proven to be the better route over the years and a lot less hassle. RC

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