How to use Facebook with a feed reader

I almost never actually visit the Facebook web site: I follow it through a feed reader (in my case, NetNewsWire) along with all of my other feeds.

Besides the obvious benefits to this, one great side effect is that you never, ever see the output of applications (e.g., quiz results) or the other useless noise like "so-and-so is now friends with someone else you already know". The only drawback I've found is that you also don't see notifications about photos that your friends have uploaded. (You do see links that they post, however: just not Facebook-hosted photos. It's a bizarre omission.)

Anyway, I just had to explain to someone how to accomplish this feat, which made me realize how completely non-obvious Facebook has made this. Finding these feeds is a complete pain in the ass. They've really gone out of their way to hide the URLs you need to use.

So. You have to subscribe to three or four different feeds.

  1. Posts: Find the Posts feed by going to http://www.facebook.com/posted.php. On the upper right of the page is a gray box, and at the bottom of that box is a link entitled "My Friends' Links" with the RSS logo next to it. Copy that URL. Subscribe to it in your feed reader. This is the RSS URL for any links and (external) images that your friends post.
  2. Notes: Find the Notes feed by going to http://www.facebook.com/notes.php and repeating the above. This is the RSS URL for things that your friends post via the "Notes" app, which is (I guess) the more blog-like way of posting long things to Facebook.

  3. Notifications: Find the Notifications feed by going to http://www.facebook.com/notifications.php and repeating the above. This is the RSS URL for things like "so-and-so commented on your status". You might not care to subscribe to this one because you can get all of these kind of notifications in email.

  4. Status Updates: This is the RSS URL for the "What are you doing?" Twitter-like part of Facebook. This is the one you probably care about, and it is trickier, because Facebook no longer links to the feed URL! Nice one guys. You have to construct this URL by editing one of the above URLs. E.g., take the "Notes" URL and change the part of the URL that says "friends_notes" to "friends_status". Keep the parts of the URL before and after that, including the magic numbers at the end.

There. Wasn't that SIMPLE?


Update, Jan 2013: Yeah, so, I guess none of that works at all any more. These days I do this with my facebook-rss.pl script, which requires you to create your own "app" first and is a giant pain in the ass. But it mostly works. Mostly.


Previously: How to use Livejournal with a feed reader.
See also: Facebook Connect comments RSS feed, finally.
And: Mirroring Twitter onto Facebook, plus bells, whistles.
And: How to block Facebook event invitations.

Tags: , ,

44 Responses:

  1. fatherbingo says:

    Thank you! May I never look at that site again!

  2. taskboy3000 says:

    mod this post up

  3. dolface71 says:

    I signed up for an LJ account specifically to say thanks for this. Thanks.

  4. jered says:

    Ugh. How long before they break these just so that you're forced to see fucking Farmville updates?

    Anyone want to help me out with content for yourbusinessmodelsucks.com (not yet registered)?

  5. humble_fool says:

    I am going to hijack your command of the Lazyweb to try and get an answer to a question:

    A while back, I wrote up my own web-based RSS reader and use that to follow blogs and comics. It works... OK, but it's ugly as sin and has a tendency to break with no warning because it is written in PHP and uses XML for the backend. (I was am young and stupid and an English major.)

    I run Windows 7 on my primary desktop machine, and have two Eee netbooks running stock Ubuntu, so NetNewsWire isn't an option for me. Are there desktop RSS clients that your readers can recommend for these two platforms, or, better yet, is there a quality web-based reader out there?

    First person to say "iGoogle" gets shot.

  6. I quite like Tweetdeck - which reads Facebook status updates - but also allows you to see comments (and make them) via its interface.

  7. mhat says:

    Thanks! Now I might actually be able to keep up with what my friends post on FB without having to use their ridiculous user experience.

  8. Thanks, I was looking into that but hadn't yet figured out how to get the key.

    And wow, this sucks! The full text of each status update shows up twice!

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, it's in both the <title> and <description>, which is pretty dumb.

      But, you know, pretty far down on the list of dumb things about this whole situation.

  9. I was trying to find the new status feed url for a while but gave up. These are going right into my feedmogrifier.

    Incidentally, have you done any work with FB-scraping scripts? It seems FB likes to yank anything on the web which could make automated control of one's profile useful.

    • Also, if you've found a feed for the events that lets you export friends' events that would be the dog's bollocks. (Automatically filling my google calendar with the things friends are doing and seeing it on my phone's calendar is what technology is for. Why doesn't this stuff exist?)

    • jwz says:

      I took a shot at screen-scraping facebook, but they make it fantastically difficult. Everything you see is generated from JSON embedded in JS code blocks, and some of it comes in asynchronously.

  10. alan_de_smet says:

    Thank you.

    I hate Facebook, but too many of my friends are starting to use Facebook status updates to arrange and discuss things. Being able to get the feed will make dealing with it much more pleasant.

  11. lovingboth says:

    Thank you - I have just joined the evil Facebook and wish to use it as little as possible.

    If you haven't already seen it, have a look at sux0r for Bayesian filtering on feeds (amongst other things).

  12. endquote says:

    Thanks for this. Seems to work well in Google Reader.

    It's weird to only see names and not profile pictures though. Now I have to actually read to figure out who posted what. I guess that's for the best.

  13. eakawie says:

    I've got Links, Updates and Notifications working in Sage, but Notes fails.

  14. geakz says:

    Works like a charm. Posted the link to your tutorial on my Facebook to hopefully convert those who are tormented by the same things we are. Thanks.

  15. imaginegrl98 says:

    I couldn't get the URL of my status updates. What do you substitute for "friends_notes" or "friends_status"?

  16. Worked great! The status worked ONLY with the notes URL subscription.

    Thanks much!

  17. the_musical says:

    thanks, this is much appreciated!

  18. loafing_oaf says:

    Thank you so much for posting this.

  19. Lifehacker posted news redirecting to this info.
    Thanks for a nice tip!

  20. boggyb says:

    Thanks, this is exactly what I've been looking for (especially the bit about the status updates).

  21. joedogboi says:

    OMG, this is brilliant!

    Now, how do you get your pages updates? For example, if you are a fan of something, how do you get their status updates. They don't seem to show up in the friends_status, or am I missing it somewhere?

    If anyone knows, I'd appreciate it!

  22. zojas says:

    This is cool, BUT, does anyone know a way to get an RSS feed for just one particular friend, instead of all of them together? that would be super-handy! thanks.

  23. mashaart says:

    Thanks for the simple tips on RSS feed...I've been trying to figure this out ever since they disabled the Status RSS.

    You are GREAT!

  24. cje says:

    I was seriously considering dumping FB because it is soooo filled with useless info. Thank you for figuring this out and posting the links.

    -case

  25. infoslave says:

    I've been looking for this for so long. You're awesome!