All posts tagged ‘facebook’

File Under: privacy, Social

Social Sharing Buttons That Respect Your Visitors’ Privacy

A more honest “Like” button. Image: Webmonkey.

Social sharing buttons — Facebook “Like” buttons and their ilk — are ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good idea.

Designers tend to hate them, calling them “Nascar” buttons since the can make your site look at little bit like a Nascar racing car — every available inch of car covered in advertising. Others think the buttons make you look desperate — please, please like/pin/tweet me — but there’s a much more serious problem with putting Facebook “Like” buttons or Pinterest “Pin It” buttons on your site: your visitors’ privacy.

When you load up your site with a host of sharing buttons you’re — unwittingly perhaps — enabling those companies to track your visitors, whether they use the buttons and their accompanying social networks or not.

There is, however, a slick solution available for those who’d like to offer visitors sharing buttons without allowing their site to be a vector for Facebook tracking. Security expert (and Wired contributor) Bruce Schneier recently switched his blog over to use Social Share Privacy, a jQuery plugin that allows you to add social buttons to your site, but keeps them disabled until visitors actively choose to share something.

With Social Share Privacy buttons are disabled by default. A user needs to first click to enable them, then click to use them. So there is a second (very small) step compared to what the typical buttons offer. In exchange for the minor inconvenience of a second click, your users won’t be tracked without their knowledge and consent. There’s even an option in the preferences to permanently enable the buttons for repeat visitors so they only need to jump through the click-twice hoop once.

The original Social Share Privacy plugin was created by the German website Heise Online, though what Schneier installed is Mathias Panzenböck’s fork, available on GitHub. The fork adds support for quite a few more services and is extensible if there’s something else you’d like to add.

File Under: Social, Web Services

New ‘Sign-Ins’ Offer Developers a Facebook Connect for Google+

Google+ Sign-In on Fitbit.com. Image: Google.

Google has announced a new feature for Google+ — third-party websites and applications can now offer sign ins through Google+.

The new Google+ Sign-Ins are essentially Facebook Connect for Google+, allowing you to not only sign-in to sites that support it, but also bring your Google+ profile data with you around the web.

The new Google+ Sign-In service will make it easier to share content from third-party sites (and within mobile apps). Exactly who will see the items you share on Google+ depends on the level of access you grant to an app, but in general you can share data with specific people on Google+, certain circles, or no one.

Here’s Google’s description of the actual sign-in process:

If you sign in to Gmail, YouTube or any other Google service, you can now use your existing credentials to sign in to apps outside of Google. Just review the Google+ permissions screen (outlining the data you’re sharing with the app, and the people who can see your activity), and you’re all set.

Google+ Sign-Ins aren’t just for web apps either — Google is pushing them for mobile apps as well. Starting today, when you sign in to a website with Google, you can install its mobile app on your Android device with a single click.

Google is also claiming that, because you can choose who to share things with, that it will mean less “social spam.” The Google+ Developer Blog even calls out Facebook’s “frictionless” sharing by name, saying “Google+ doesn’t let apps spray ‘frictionless’ updates all over the stream, so app activity will only appear when it’s relevant.” Of course one person’s “relevant” content is another’s spam, so take that claim with a bucket or two of salt.

Items you share from sites and apps using Google+ Sign-In show up as a slightly different “interactive” post in your friends’ Google+ stream. Clicking on these items will lead them to the app where they can listen to or buy or review the item you shared.

If you want to add Google+ Sign-In to your site or app, head on over to the new developer site and read through the documentation.

File Under: Browsers, Social

Socialfox: New Feature Puts Facebook in Your Firefox

Facebook is in your Firefox (but only if you want it). Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.


Mozilla is rolling out a beta version of its new Social API for Firefox. For this release the company worked with Facebook to create Facebook Messenger for Firefox — a Firefox sidebar that brings your Facebook updates with you wherever you go on the web.

If you’d like to test out Firefox’s new Social API features, head over to the beta channel downloads page and grab the latest release. Then point your browser to Facebook, which will prompt you to install the Facebook Messenger for Firefox.

If you don’t visit Facebook you’ll never know the new Social API exists.

That’s exactly as it should be, according to Mozilla’s Johnathan Nightingale, senior director of Firefox engineering. I spoke to Nightingale ahead of the Social API release and he stressed that the Social API is entirely opt-in by design. “Our plan is not to push anyone into something they don’t want, but to make

easier and better for those that already use it.”

The new Social API can be seen as an extension of the App Tabs Mozilla added to Firefox 4. The App Tabs feature recognizes that all tabs are not equal. Some tabs, like e-mail, document editors or news feeds are easier to use when they get a special spot in your browser. The Social API extends that idea even further, bringing social websites out of tabs completely and into a persistent sidebar that you can access without the need to switch tabs or log in.

“Social is not like other things that people do on the internet,” says Nightingale, “it runs as a current through everything they’re doing.” The Social API is designed to make it easier to stay in that current even while you’re visiting other sites. For example, Facebook Messenger for Firefox adds a sidebar that is visible even when you switch tabs. It’s easier to keep up with what’s happening because you see updates rolling in even when you’re browsing other sites. Since constant Facebook updates are annoying when you’re trying to get work done, there’s also a way to hide the sidebar until you want it again.

Facebook’s Social API implementation also adds a “like” button to the address bar, which means you can share a page with your friends on Facebook without leaving that page, which is great for sites that don’t offer their own social sharing buttons.

The Firefox Social API consists of a manifest file and few URLs, but the user interface, the features offered and all the other details are up to the social site itself. For now that’s just Facebook, but Nightingale says Mozilla will add more support for more providers, and eventually even for multiple social sites at once. The idea is to make it easy for any site to build on the Social API, much like the OpenSearch API did for custom search engines.

If you don’t use Facebook there’s nothing to see right now. However, after playing around with the new Facebook Messenger it’s not hard to imagine how other sites might do something similar. Twitter is an obvious example, but the Social API is not limited to just “social networks.” For example, GitHub could create a sidebar with, say, all your project updates and pull requests.

The privacy implications of giving social networks a cozier spot in your browser may make some people nervous, but Tom Lowenthal, of Mozilla’s Privacy and Public Policy team, assures users that nothing has changed regarding your data. “Once enabled, Firefox loads several pages from your social network over secure connections,” writes Lowenthal, “These pages are treated just as if you’d loaded them in another browser tab.”

That means Facebook can set cookies and collect data just like it would if you were logged into the site, but neither Facebook, nor any other social network that builds something with the Social API, will get any special treatment or additional data from Firefox. In other words, just because Facebook is persistent in the sidebar doesn’t mean it has access to any additional information from your browser.

If you’re always logged into Facebook anyway, the new Facebook Messenger for Firefox makes for a smoother, more compelling social network experience. It’s also easy to back out of should you end up disliking it. Those looking for something similar from another social network will just have to wait for those networks to build out their own Social API offerings.

File Under: Browsers, Social, Web Services

Mozilla Wants to Put Social Networks in the Browser

Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired

With Firefox 16 out the door — and yes, it has been updated to fix the security vulnerability we wrote about yesterday — Mozilla has begun turning its attention to Firefox 17, which just arrived in the Beta channel.

If you’d like to test Firefox 17, head over to the Firefox channels page and grab a copy.

Firefox 17 introduces the first bit of Mozilla’s plan to bring the social web into the web browser. Firefox 17 lays the groundwork for Mozilla’s new Social API. There’s nothing to see right now, but under the hood Firefox 17 is getting ready to move your social web interactions from individual websites into a sidebar within Firefox.

Among Mozilla’s plans for the new Social API are a notification system, a way to share or recommend content and a dedicated sidebar for news feeds, chat and other aspects of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its social API:

Much like the OpenSearch standard, the Social API enables developers to integrate social services into the browser in a way that is meaningful and helpful to users. As services integrate with Firefox via the Social API sidebar, it will be easy for you to keep up with friends and family anywhere you go on the Web without having to open a new Web page or switch between tabs. You can stay connected to your favorite social network even while you are surfing the Web, watching a video or playing a game.

If that sounds familiar, well, it should. The “social” web browser Flock offered most of the features Mozilla has planned for the Firefox Social API, but failed to ever find much of an audience and has since been shut down acquired by Zynga and shutdown (while the current Flock website seems to hint that it might return, we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath).

Mozilla is planning to start its own social experimentation with Facebook. The two companies are working to bring Facebook Messenger (Facebook’s chat and SMS app) into Firefox via the new Social API. Look for Facebook Messenger to arrive in Firefox 17 as updates roll out in the coming weeks.

If social network integration isn’t your bag, fear not, Firefox does have a few changes aimed at web developers, most notably the new Markup Panel in the developer tools.

Previously the Markup Panel only allowed you to edit HTML attribute values, but now you can double-click pretty much anywhere in the panel and change just about any bit of HTML you’d like. That means it’s possible to edit pages on the fly in the browser and then copy and paste your changes back to your actual HTML files or templates. For more details on the other new developer tools in Firefox 17, see our earlier write-up of the Aurora channel release.

File Under: Mobile

Facebook and Others Aim to Make the Mobile Web a Competitive App Platform

A coalition of 30 technology companies hopes to turn the web into a competitive platform for building mobile applications. They have launched a Core Mobile Web Platform (coremob) community group through the W3C to provide a venue for collaborating on next-generation mobile web standards.

Facebook and Mozilla are among the leading members of the group. In an announcement today, Facebook discussed its motivations for participating. The social networking company says users who access Facebook through the mobile website outnumber the collective audience of all Facebook’s native mobile applications.

Facebook consequently wants to ensure its mobile website matches the quality of the experience users get from the native applications. In order to make that possible, open web standards will have to evolve to offer tighter device integration.

Mozilla has been pursuing that goal with its WebAPI project. That has introduced new JavaScript APIs allowing web content to access underlying hardware components and platform functionality, such as the cameras and cellular radio. As we recently reported, Mozilla is using those new APIs in the Open Web Devices (OWD) platform, a mobile operating system that is based on the organization’s Boot2Gecko project.

Mozilla is also working through W3C to turn the APIs into open standards so they can be supported by other browser vendors. The coremob community group will provide a means for mobile web stakeholders to discuss their technical requirements and help shape the emerging standards.

Facebook also announced the release of Ringmark, a test suite for evaluating the capabilities of mobile web browsers. The tests will help developers make informed decisions about what features they can safely use in various mobile web environments. Facebook hopes such information will help developers contend with the highly fragmented mobile web browser landscape.

The Core Mobile Web Platform community group has announced Ringmark, a test suite for evaluating the capabilities of mobile Web browsers.

The tests consist of two separate “rings” which represent sets of standard web features. The inner ring focuses on fundamentals like support for HTML video, native JSON parsing, CSS animation, and the Canvas element. The second ring includes a broader feature set, such as fullscreen support, touch events, and the device orientation APIs. I ran the test suite on an iPhone 4S, which passed all of the tests in the first ring and 229 of the 306 tests in the second ring.

In addition to Mozilla and Facebook, the coremob community group also includes major mobile network operators, hardware manufacturers, mobile platform vendors, and other web companies. The lineup includes AT&T, Verizon, Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Intel, Microsoft, Opera, Adobe, Netflix, Zynga, Sencha, among others. Conspicuously absent from the list: Apple and Google.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.