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Facebook rolls out secure browsing changes. Here is how to save your app

It came with five days of delay, but today (05/10) Facebook has followed its roadmap announced last May and rolled out important changes to apps and brand pages tabs.

This set of modifications only affects apps’ background coding – there is no interface change (visual) or new user facing feature, and for this reason it is not getting much media attention.

But the Facebook changes are drastic and, in simple words, will make you app unusable if not followed through.

Just test it yourself.

This morning, a number of high profile pages were presented with the warning below instead of their glossy app tab.

Facebook Secure Browsing warning

Facebook Apps on non-secure server are now being blocked for a big number of users

The main breaking change is that all apps have to be stored on secure servers – those with a valid SSL certificate installed.

From now on, when a user with secure browsing (HTTPS) enabled, and that is the default setting affecting the majority of people on Facebook, lands on a tab stored on a non-secure server, the warning above is presented.

Even though savvy users may find a way around it, there is no easy link to proceed and access the app anyway.

More than that, Facebook hasn’t ruled out banning the app altogether, even for users not on secure browsing, as the safety of personal information is more and more sensitive to the social network.

“We may announce other steps in the near future that will limit the distribution of Apps on Facebook that do not support Secure Canvas or Page Tab URLs”, the company has announce on its Developers blog.

If your app has been impacted by the secure browsing issue, the solution is not too hard to implement.

The 2 steps – The Online Circle‘s suggestion to accomplish the fix:

  1. Purchase of an SSL Certificate and installation on the server where the app is stored (or migration of the app to a secure server);
  2. Update of the apps settings on Facebook to reflect the new secure URL.

The secure browsing change is not the only breaking modification introduced by Facebook today.

The other changes are more likely to impact only complex apps, but may still be causing your tab to malfunction or totally disappear.

The links below will provide plenty of resources and documentation to understand the issues and act on it when appropriate.

And this is not all.

A new 12 months schedule of major changes has also being announced. The mark-up coding language used by hundreds of thousands of apps around the world, FBML, will be no longer supported from 1st January 2012 and totally phased out by 1st June 2012. So if you want to keep your audience engaged and protect your investment on Facebook apps and landing tabs, go on and make sure your provider is up to date with the rapidly shifting platform changes happening on the world’s biggest social network. Or drop us an email at The Online Circle, we would love to help your page!

Luis Fernando Tinoco, The Online Circle's Senior Developer, has held a variety of roles within the Media and IT industry over the last 16 years, including experiences at international media outlets such as the International Data Group (IDG), publisher of PC World and MacWorld. He actively works on improving website and applications usability, performance and design.

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