facebook stream widget – Stay N Alive

This New Trend in Facebook Apps Looks Ugly

HuluI was tipped today onto Hulu’s new Facebook app, which seems to be aiming to bring the Hulu website into Facebook by including videos and a stream in the app itself.  The thing is, it’s hardly an app – it’s just the Hulu website in an HTML tag with an embeded stream widget inside. (Not sure what that is? Click the link to learn more about stream widgets) It’s something anyone (I would even argue you don’t even have to be a developer to do what they did) could do inside or outside Facebook, but they could do much better.  They took the easy way out, and it better have cost them just 2 hours of their developers’ time to implement or they just got ripped off.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this trend of Facebook app design.  I first saw it when a friend showed me the Hurley Pro Facebook app, also just a normal website, with a Facebook fan stream widget embedded inside, something that really barely even utilizes the Facebook API and the reasons you would integrate with Facebook in the first place.  I’m sure Facebook isn’t complaining – in the end it does bring more traffic to Facebook and helps to spread the Facebook brand, but for the brands in question, I just can’t see how this is helping them at all!

Here’s what they’re missing out on by not having deeper integration:

  • Deep tracking – they have the potential to know the exact demographics of everyone visiting their app or site by digging a little deeper
  • Notifications, Invites, and Requests – without some FBML and API integration (see my book to learn more about that) there is no way for users to spread word of the app.  The only way currently to do that via the means they’re doing it is to use the stream widget, which hardly does much to spread word of the app.
  • User tracking and customization – by using the Facebook API they could be knowing exactly who is visiting their app and customizing the experience to that user
  • Friend sharing – the most powerful feature of the Facebook API, there is no way currently to view what your friends are doing within the app.  Hulu, for instance, could be showing the videos your friends are watching and favoriting and subscribing to. They can’t do that the way they’re doing it right now.

If I were Hulu, I would be looking for ways to utilize Facebook Connect to bring Facebook to their own brand.  Look to integrate (see the “3 steps – that’s all!” part of this doc on the Facebook developers wiki) a simple one-click user login and registration button for Facebook on your site.  Use the API to get the user’s friends and share what their other friends on Facebook using Hulu are doing.  You can do all this on your own website.

Then allow your users to take action – share what your users are doing on Hulu with their friends on Facebook.  Their friends on Facebook will see the interaction on Hulu and want to interact with your site as well.  Hulu, you’re really missing out here, and it won’t be much work to just integrate a little more Facebook into your own brand.  It’s time we start creating farms on our own turf and stop going out to do the fishing ourselves.

Hulu, contact me if you want some help in this.