stoolpigeon writes "Facebook became the largest worldwide social site in the middle of last year. If their current pace holds they will pass MySpace as number one in the US some time next year. Those numbers have led a number of people to strike out and develop Facebook applications, hoping to grab a piece of that huge audience. One aspect of writing such applications is knowing Facebook Markup Language, which has been described as the icing on the Facebook API cake. FBML Essentials aims to be the resource that provides hopeful application writers with what they need to use FBML successfully." Keep reading for the rest of JR's review.FBML Essentials is a slim little volume in the world of massive technical books. The author, Jesse Stay has accomplished something many projects and authors can't seem to avoid, scope creep. This little book stays right on target providing FBML documentation with a few extras as book-ends. One will not be forced to spend half their time with the book skimming over information not directly related to the topic at hand.
The reference portion of the book, as I said, is the bulk of this guide. This section does provide more thorough information than what one would find at the FBML tag section of the Facebook developer wiki. (Which sometimes holds contradicting information for the use of some tags.) There is not only a brief explanation and example but more detailed coverage of options and ramifications. Tags are also grouped in a way that takes into account functionality and what a developer may want to do. This means that while it might not be a thrilling way to go about it, one could read through the reference material in a topical manner while learning how to use FBML in applications.
The first two chapters, before the reference section begins, introduce Facebook applications, walk the reader through prerequisites for development and html considerations within the Facebook environment. This book assumes a solid understanding of markup and specifically html. There is an extremely brief treatment of hosting and general architecture of the Facebook platform.
The introductory material also steps through creating an application with nothing more than FBML. I thought that this was interesting because it means that it is possible to develop and launch an application rather quickly as there is nothing required beyond what is in this guide. This is backed up with an introduction to the FBML Test Console, a tool that allows developers to check their markup without requiring a server.
There isn't a whole lot here and that ought to be encouraging to anyone who would want to write a Facebook application but doesn't want to invest a huge amount of time. Stay gives an example of building a simple application using nothing more than FBML. It's nice to know that such simple functionality can provide one with an entre into a huge community of potential users. I am also glad that Stay was able to resist the urge to start pulling in every possible aspect of development for Facebook. Instead of a bloated guide the result is a compact and efficient guide to FBML, keeping costs down and avoiding wasted time trying to find what the reader needs.
The index is solid and I highly recommend this handy reference to anyone doing Facebook application development. Of course the use here is limited to Facebook and as they are constantly developing and changing the product, this reference has a definite shelf life. (Though I don't know exactly what that might be.) So this is not a timeless or ground breaking title, but is extremely practical right now.
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