Devs hate outdated documentation. If a platform you build on changes and doesn’t tell you, it can cause days of frustration and wasted work. So now, when Facebook alters its source code, its developer docs automatically update to stay current. Since Facebook is constantly tinkering with its platform that supports 9 million+ apps, this should make it much easier for developers and keep them loyal.
Reference docs for Facebook’s FQL, Android SDK and iOS SDK are all now being generated automatically from their source code. Facebook’s Graph API will be converted to this system soon, along with other parts of the platform including the PHP and Java SDKs plus the money-printing Ads API. Facebook also redesigned the structure of its docs to make them easier to navigate.
In its early days the Facebook platform was pretty hairy, with devs constantly complaining that their apps would break without warning. But keeping third-party developers happy is critical for Facebook at this stage of its evolution. Twitter and Google+ offer competing social platforms that are happy to capitalize on the discontent of Facebook developers.
Meanwhile, Facebook is trying to execute a social layer platform strategy on mobile. Instead of competing directly with iOS and Android, it wants every app built on those platforms integrated with its social capabilities. It’s working so far, considering 9 of the top 10 iOS apps and most of the Android stars now have Facebook baked in.
If devs see their Facebook integrations break down and the documentation isn’t up to date, fixes can be a maddening trial-and-error process. By generating docs straight from the source code, Facebook’s engineers can spend their time building out the platform rather than fiddling with the docs, and developers can be confident they at least have the right instruction manual. Any platforms that don’t do this better step their game up.
Cheers to fewer expletive-filled all-nighters hunched over your code.
If you want to geek out on Facebook some more, read: Facebook Publishes Super Nerdy Big Data Engineering Blog Post To Attract Hardcore Coders
[Image Credit: Telegraph / Getty]