Social Media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are huge. No question about that. But, how about adding some of those features onto your website? I’m not talking about imitating; I’m talking about incorporating those websites themselves onto yours. If you wanted users to log into your website for example, having them log into Facebook would be much easier and simpler. How would you accomplish this? Well, that’s easy. The use of APIs.
What is an API?
API stands for Application Program Interface. Basically it lets programmers easily create programs that interact with it, and then adds and modifies data to the host of the API (Facebook of Twitter, plus many others) being examples. However, interacting with the API is done through the HTTP protocol, just like your web browser. So, if you can’t access the internet, or if the website’s down, then the program would lose some of its features.
Coincidentally enough, APIs from a few of the major websites were released in 2006 (such as Facebook and Twitter, both of which were long awaited). However, eBay released an API in 2000, along with Amazon in 2002. It allowed other websites to interact with these other major websites, for example having a website show off their product, that’s linked back to eBay or Amazon.
eBay, one of the first to create these kinds of APIs, ended up setting the standards to what they are today.
Facebook Connect is the Facebook API that allows visitors of other websites to log into their Facebook account. One recent use of this is Jumo. It allows others to log in to Facebook and able to donate to organizations causes, as well as keeping track of what these organizations are doing.
There is more that you can do with Facebook Connect, however. Joost can update their website straight from Facebook. You can also add comments on the website, and “Like” the streams they play by logging in from their website.
Workstir uses Facebook Connect to look for jobs. It will see where your location is based on your Facebook account information, and will notify you when there are job offerings in your area.
Then, There’s Twitter
With Twitter, there are multiple third party applications that have been made using the Twitter API (some of these are WordPress plug-ins, too). One really good WordPress plug-in is called TwitterTools. Here are just a few features straight from the website:
- Archive your Twitter tweets (downloaded every 15 minutes)
- Create a blog post from each of your tweets
- Create a daily digest post of your tweets
- Create a tweet on Twitter whenever you post in your blog, with a link to the blog post
TweetThis is another WordPress plug-in that allows people with Twitter to tweet blog posts to show what they are reading, as well as providing a shorthand URL link back to the page. It’s a really handy promotional tool that is very easy to install.
Then, there’s IntenseDebate. It is a very powerful and sophisticated commenting system with a rating system, which allows you to log in through Twitter to comment. You can also have Twitter notify you when you comment, which can direct some attention back to the website.
There are more ways to integrate Facebook and Twitter onto a website than just adding a “Like” or “Follow” button. Creating a log in system through the use of Facebook Connect, creating blog entries from Twitter, or using Google Maps can better the user interactivity on the website. Of course, there are some issues, such as having to connect via HTTP (even though it’s not that big of a deal as these large websites don’t go down that often), but such tools can make for a really unique experience that I would never overlook.