Facebook Actions: Building Up The Database Of You

The social network allows third-party apps to pipe information about what you’re doing elsewhere back to the mother ship.


Back in September, at its annual f8 developer conference, Facebook announced that it would be opening itself up to data from other apps, like Spotify and Runkeeper. Called “Actions,” the system would allow the other apps to pass information about what you were doing in their worlds–like what songs you were listening to or what workouts you had done–back to the social network, to be recorded on users’ profile pages and displayed to their friends.

At the time, Facebook opened the system up only to a few select partners. Today, the company announced it would begin accepting applications from any other service that wanted to be considered for inclusion in the program. Over 60 other apps, that have been working with Facebook on the feature, will also now start sending their users’ information to the social network–pending approval from individual users.

Here’s how the system works: Let’s say you listen to a particular song on Spotify. That action, “listened to a song,” gets passed back to Facebook (assuming you’ve given Spotify approval to do so). The action gets listed in your friends’ Tickers, where all their friends’ actions inside Facebook (like when they Like a page or comment on a picture) gets displayed in real-time. The action also gets listed on your Timeline as a permanent part of your history. (Though you can choose not to have that listed, or limit the people to whom it gets displayed.)

“Whatever story you want to tell, you can add that to Timeline,” said Carl Sjogreen, who leads the Facebook product team.

Facebook’s high-level hope is that including this kind of information, particularly from media and lifestyle apps, will give users a fuller picture of each other, and further its goal of “making the world a more connected place.” They also expect this new capability will spur the creation of thousands new apps that don’t yet exist.

“Although we may not have applications for everything today, we expect in the future we will,” Sjogreen said.


But it will also serve as a discovery engine for users, helping them discover media, activities, and food, for example, by seeing what their friends are up to, that they might otherwise not have heard about.

Read also: New Facebook Timeline Is All About Discovery And Explosive Revenue Growth

E.B. Boyd is’s Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter | Google+ | Email

[Image: Flickr user Espen Klem]

About the author

E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan.