‘In pursuit of a more secure walled garden’

Upcoming API Change Will Break Facebook and Instagram oEmbed Links Across the Web Beginning October 24

Sarah Gooding, writing for WordPress Tavern:

In an extraordinarily inconvenient API change, Facebook and Instagram will be dropping unauthenticated oEmbed support on October 24, breaking content across millions of websites. The change will force users to generate an app ID with a developer account in order to continue embedding links via oEmbed

In 2008, Leah Culver, one of the collaborators on the oEmbed spec, said it was created to be “an open web API standard for fetching embed code based on a URL.” Requiring authentication in order to use oEmbed links seems like a violation of its intended purpose. For more than a decade, oEmbed has made it possible for users to easily share media across websites and social networks, without having to touch any code. It underpins a flourishing, connected landscape of web sharing that opens up new audiences for posts that might otherwise be buried in a social network’s fast-moving timeline.

In pursuit of a more secure walled garden, Facebook will now require all publishers to obtain developer app credentials in order to embed content that was previously available through simple URLs. Many users will be understandably frustrated when they find they can no longer embed Facebook and Instagram links the way they could in the past. Some will not be motivated to surmount the hurdle of setting up a Facebook app and may resort to posting screenshots or omitting the content altogether. A feature so widely used by non-technical users should not be suddenly locked away behind developer credentials.

A big middle finger from Facebook to the Open Web, in other words.

In response to Facebook’s API change, WordPress will be removing Facebook as an oEmbed provider in an upcoming core release. This will break a lot of content — many years’ worth of posts in some instances, and will require users to install a fallback plugin. WordPress plugin developer Ayesh Karunaratne has created a new plugin called oEmbed Plus that brings back support for Facebook and Instagram content embedding. It guides users through the process of setting up Facebook developer app credentials.

For those who are using the Gutenberg plugin, the Facebook and Instagram blocks have been removed as part of tomorrow’s version 9.0 release. oEmbed links will continue to work until Facebook’s API change goes into effect.

In all seriousness, anyone who uses embedded Facebook content or connects to Facebook services from their websites should consider whether doing so is morally and ethically justifiable.

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