On June 12th 2012, Facebook finally released an official plugin for WordPress, allowing for the simplistic integration of Facebook’s social features into any WordPress blog. Well, that was the theory, anyway.
As of today’s date, a week after release, the official plugin is rating at an abysmal 3 out of 5 stars from 49 ratings and 29,000 downloads. Considering WordPress is installed on nearly 75 million sites, and Facebook is used by more than 901 million users, this is an extremely luke-warm utilisation. But why?
Well for one, Facebook has been extremely slow off the mark on this. ‘Facebook for WordPress’ apps, integrating functionality of the like button and comments box, have been around for a long time already. Most sites are entirely comfortable with their set-up and without a compelling reason, they won’t bother to change things around just for the sake of the app being ‘official’. The code to embed the social sharing aspects of Facebook is a very straightforward implementation, so an ‘official’ app is unlikely to be doing it differently.
The one thing that might make you think about changing is the fact the official app has features not usually seen together in one place:
- Social Publisher – “allows you to publish to an Author’s Facebook Timeline and Fan Page. Authors can also mention Facebook friends and pages.”
- Subscribe Button – ” lets a user subscribe to your public updates on Facebook. Each WordPress author must authenticate with Facebook in order for the Subscribe button to appear on their Posts.”
- Send Button – “allows users to easily send content to their friends. People will have the option to send your URL in a message to their Facebook friends, to the group wall of one of their Facebook groups, and as an email to any email address.”
- Comments Box – “a social plugin that enables user commenting on your site. Features include moderation tools and distribution.”
- Recommendations Bar – “allows users to click to start getting recommendations, Like content, and add what they’re reading to Timeline as they go.”
Sounds promising, but is it any good?
Not really. Version 1.0 is so utterly bug-filled it’s embarrassing to have it available as a live download. Let me give you three of the worst (tested in Firefox):
- Non-optionally replaces WordPress comments. Historically plugins which offer Facebook comments have been implemented in addition to WordPress’s own comment functionality. This gives site admins the choice of using both in tandem, or turning off the WordPress comments either for individual articles or the whole site. Personally I replace WP comments and so my settings have everything set to ‘Comments disabled’ with my 3rd party comment plugin loading at the bottom of articles regardless. The trouble is, with the official plugin this causes the Facebook comments not to appear as they’re sitting in the same area normally reserved for WP comments. I thought this feature was broken entirely until I turned comments back on for one article and the comment box then loaded. This isn’t obvious, and the plugin offers no options to change this.
- Like button broken on homepage. Some credit to the Like button – it seems to load quite quickly on page posts, but is entirely broken on the homepage posts. Normally a plugin puts a Like button at the bottom/top of each article, and a ‘Like’ will like the URL of that post. On the official app, while it displays Like buttons against each of the articles listed on the homepage, the URL which is liked is that of the homepage itself, and not the article. Really basic flaw and appallingly overlooked.
- Social Publisher doesn’t work. This asks for integration with your Facebook account in order to publish to your desired feeds. I obligingly clicked the link, authorised the app, and…. nothing happened. The box to enable to publisher unchecks itself, and provides no options for customising feed output. I couldn’t get this to work at all. Useless.
Additionally enabling the plugin also breaks several of my other plugins, causing their content not to appear. I assume this is because the Facebook plugin is too aggressively taking control of the WordPress publishing areas, giving no consideration to other plugins that might be running already. That in itself is very annoying and enough of a reason to have me turn it off.
I also found it strange that the ‘Send’ button was given as a separate feature, despite it already existing as an optional component within the Like button options. Only useful I suppose if you want people to share your pages, but not like them, which would be an unusual set-up.
We should try to be forgiving, as this is after all version 1.0, and the plugin is only a week old. But the evident lack of testing is extremely poor and makes this a bug-ridden mess that should be avoided until several fixes are issued. I will update this article to report once the initial offering is updated.
Update 21st June 2012
Version 1.01 of the plugin has been released today, with a variety of bugfixes. I can confirm the following fixes:
- Social Publisher now works. I was able to finally authenticate with my Facebook account and given options to publish WordPress stories to one of my Facebook Pages. I tested this and also simultaneous posting to the author’s timeline, and both now work.
- Like buttons on the homepage have been fixed – now properly Likes the individual article.
- No longer appears to interfere with the publication of other plugin content (increasing the odds of me using this considerably!).
So this is a very welcome and corrective update, dare I say halfway usable. My original bugbear of it replacing WP comments still exists, and the option to have this in addition to, rather than instead of, is something that needs to make its way into future updates. For the meantime I’ll be keeping this option disabled.