While testing out Google Reader’s new feature for following changes to any website, I realized that many Facebook Pages were already accessible in an RSS format. While the feeds were previously accessible via any web browser, it appears that access has now been restricted just to feed readers. If you want to make sure you get all of a Page’s updates, subscribing to the Page feed is a great alternative.
While we haven’t figured out how page feeds are being restricted, when tested on Google Reader, each post receives its own feed item. This means one of two things: Facebook is limiting RSS access to RSS readers and blocking web browsers or Google is automatically formatting pages into an easily digestible format. My guess is that it’s the former. Each post also can have an image and the feed content displayed.
While Facebook may have been publishing content via RSS for months now, this is the first time we’ve actually used the service. Given that Facebook already filters out a lot of Facebook Page content, subscribing to Facebook Pages via RSS can be extremely useful. The functionality appears to be sketchy though as Google Reader is reporting to us that it is encountering parsing errors on pages that we have been testing.
Despite the questionable functionality, it does appear to work for the time being. While many users have asked for the stream to be digestible in RSS format, Facebook has been hesitant to provide such functionality. Facebook has gone so far as to shut off those applications that convert the stream into RSS. The aim is most likely to keep users coming back to the site. Even if Facebook Pages are accessible through RSS, there’s a good chance users will still visit Facebook on a daily basis to see what their friends are up to.
We will be sure to post any updates as we hear more information about Facebook Page RSS functionality. Do you think RSS subscriptions to Facebook Pages is a useful feature?