A few months ago, at the ExactTarget Connections Event, in September, I heard that Facebook was going to make building Facebook Applications easier and more accessible to “the average joe.” I assumed this would equate to an easier process for building applications; I eagerly awaited changes to the Facebook Developer’s site that would explain the process more clearly and lower the bar for anyone wanting to build Facebook apps. Even though I’ve built a few Facebook Applications, I don’t feel like I’ve got a sturdy enough understanding of the how’s and why’s of it all.
Then about a month ago I had to program one application that was intended to be deployed across a few hundred pages. I ran into some problems I hadn’t had a reason to address previously – Facebook requires Applications be built on servers that have active Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates.
Although our client had active SSL certificates on their domain I didn’t have access to the client’s web server and couldn’t just drop files on their permanent domain. My only option was to set up a separate, “third party” domain and buy a new certificate. This was hardly ideal because of the continued maintenance issue – I’d have to pay money to renew the certificate – and I’d need to remember to be pro-active about renewing it. So basically building a Facebook Application under these new rules, with the same old tools, was going to be difficult and costly.
About a month ago I started building this app and noticed that something WAS new in the Developers’ Site. It was Heroku!
Heroku gives a Facebook Application Developer free space “on the cloud” that includes SSL. This means a Facebook Application Developer doesn’t need to buy new certificates for third-party domains every time an application needs to be built for a client. It may not lower the bar in terms of “ease of use”, but it sure does make it cheaper to deploy them.
I ended up figuring out how to use Heroku in an hour or two – give it a shot – it’s a better alternative to maintaining SSL certificates for your facebook apps.
If you’re interested in building Facebook apps, leveraging Heroku, or just want to know more about Administering Facebook Pages feel free to e-mail me or just leave a comment.