Every week I come across some web-based service that makes it possible to do in a few clicks what a year ago would have required anything from a day of fiddling to months of developer time. Today’s tool is one of a number offered by Dapper, a company which aims to “make it easy and possible for anyone to extract and reuse content from any website.” The tool is the Facebook Appmaker.
It took me around 30 minutes to create a Facebook app which would allow Facebook users to display a feed from my blog. You first need to create a ‘Dapp‘ (basically a custom RSS feed), and then use the Facebook Appmaker to create an app based on that. It’s basically a lot of clicking, and copying and pasting according to the instructions.
Given the ease of use, this means there’s now no excuse for news organisations not to offer Facebook apps for any aspect of their news service – including pages which do not already have RSS feeds.
And here’s the real beauty – a basic app for your news feed is only the beginning.
Because you can create custom RSS feeds from anywhere, you can create custom apps that do any number of things. Similar to Yahoo! Pipes, you can create mashups – or ‘scrape’ web content from pages that do not offer RSS feeds (there’s even a Firefox extension that will detect RSS feeds created by other people for any site you’re on).
So, for example, although Google does not offer an RSS feed of searches (Google News and Blog Search do), I created this RSS feed for the search ‘new online magazine launches’ – and then a Facebook app based on that. You could combine any number of RSS feeds, and you can add filters too. From that you can create your own Facebook app, Flash widget, Google Gadget…
Stop there. Do you understand the implications of this? You are not just publishing content any more – you are creating a bespoke news service, built on content from elsewhere, using your journalistic knowledge and editorial experience. Do you know what you have done?
You’ve become Google News.