[Update (10 April 2010): we've edited the tutorial to bring it up to date with the current incarnations of Facebook Connect, Facebooker and Rails.] Back ...

People have found the integration of Facebook Connect tricky and while great libraries like facebooker handle the API part, actually getting the profile linking and integration flow is harder. So I’ve written this tutorial to integrate the most commonly used starter plugin for authentication and registration in Ruby On Rails, restful_authentication, with Facebook Connect to allow your users to login and register through Connect.

First of all, let’s state what this integration is going to achieve:

  • As a user I can register to the site through entering my details so I can access all that great functionality

  • As a user I can login to the site through my entered username and password

  • As a user I can register to the site through Facebook Connect so I don’t have to fill in that form

  • As a user I can login to the site through Facebook Connect so I don’t have to remember two passwords

  • As a user I can connect my existing site user with my Facebook Connect user so I can later login through Facebook Connect

We also have a constraint we need to consider:

  • As a user if I register a user through entering my details and later login through Facebook Connect I want to make sure I retain my old user account

So read on and I’ll have you Connected in 15 minutes. We will first create a standard restful_authentication Rails application. I’m going to user mysql for this example

We will first create a standard restful_authentication Rails application. 

rails -d mysql connect_tutorial
cd connect_tutorial

Then we need to install the restful authentication plugin:

cd vendor/plugins
git clone git://github.com/technoweenie/restful-authentication.git restful_authentication
cd ../..
./script/generate authenticated user sessions

Next, we create our database:

rake db:create
rake db:migrate

Now move include AuthenticatedSystem from the Sessions Controller to the Application Controller.

Start the server and browse to http://localhost:3000/signup. Bingo, Restful Authentication in 3 minutes. Don’t create any users yet we need to make to add some fields to connect up our accounts.

We need two extra columns for our users: one to store the Facebook user ID and another to store a special hash of our users email address which we can use to later match new Facebook users to existing accounts to take care of our constraint. Let’s create a migration for that:

script/generate migration add_users_fb

Edit the migration so that it looks like this:

def self.up
add_column :users, :fb_user_id, :integer
add_column :users, :email_hash, :string
#if mysql
execute("alter table users modify fb_user_id bigint")
def self.down
remove_column :users, :fb_user_id
remove_column :users, :email_hash

The ask Rake to run the migration:

rake db:migrate

For the Facebook heavy lifting, we are going to use the facebooker plugin. This will handle the API level communication for us.

script/plugin install git://github.com/mmangino/facebooker.git

You are now going to have to create a Facebook Application on Facebook to get your API key and secret. Head over to http://www.facebook.com/developers/createapp.php


(Enter your own application name)

Facebook Connect setup screen

Take a note of the api_key and secret and add these to config/facebooker.yml. Also, make sure you set the callback_url to your local development server.

api_key: {YOUR_KEY}
secret_key: {YOUR_SECRET}
callback_url: http://localhost:3000/
pretty_errors: true
set_asset_host_to_callback_url: true
public_port: 4007
local_port: 3000
Then, back at Facebook, select the Connect tab on the left of the page and enter your Connect URL (this used to be called the Callback URL) – for the purposes of this tutorial, you should set this to http://localhost:3000/ – make sure you include the trailing slash or Facebook’s form will complain:


Now we need to create a cross-domain receiver file for Facebook Connect to callback on. Luckily, facebooker can do that for us, but make sure you have configured your facebooker.yml file correctly, or the generator will bomb out:

script/generate xd_receiver

We need to initialise the Facebook Connect on every page. This consists of 3 things:

  1. adding a namespace declaration for FBML

  2. adding the Facebook Connect Javascript

  3. initialising the Javascript

Luckily facebooker can do some of this for us, so we create a generic layout index.html.erb

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xmlns:fb="http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml">
<%= javascript_include_tag :defaults%>
<%= fb_connect_javascript_tag %>
<%= init_fb_connect "XFBML"%>

And add the following to ApplicationController

layout 'index'
before_filter :set_facebook_session
helper_method :facebook_session

You are now ready to roll with some Facebook Connect tags. Add the following to the bottom of sessions/new.html.erb

<p>or login with Facebook connect</p>
<%= fb_login_button('window.location = "/users/link_user_accounts";')%>

And the following to users/new.html.erb

<p>or register with Facebook connect</p>
<%= fb_login_button('window.location = "/users/link_user_accounts";')%>

We also add another registration field for name

<p><%= label_tag 'name' %><br/>
<%= f.text_field :name %></p>

These are going to create FBML tags which the Facebook connect Javascript will render as our Connect buttons

Start (or restart) the server and go to http://localhost:3000/login. The result should look like the following screenshot. If not, retrace your steps to make sure you’ve not done something wrong.


Now it’s time to integrate. We need to do three main things

  1. When you are logged in through a Facebook session then login through restful authentication

  2. Link accounts between Facebook and Restful Authentication

  3. Create accounts when someone login or register with facebook.

In order to do this, we first need to edit lib/authenticated_system.rb. Change the current_user method to:

def current_user
@current_user ||= (login_from_session || login_from_basic_auth || login_from_cookie || login_from_fb) unless @current_user == false

Also, we need to add the following method:

def login_from_fb
if facebook_session
self.current_user = User.find_by_fb_user(facebook_session.user)

This will handle the seamless login for us. Now we need to add to our User model as follows:

#find the user in the database, first by the facebook user id and if that fails through the email hash
def self.find_by_fb_user(fb_user)
User.find_by_fb_user_id(fb_user.uid) || User.find_by_email_hash(fb_user.email_hashes)
#Take the data returned from facebook and create a new user from it.
#We don't get the email from Facebook and because a facebooker can only login through Connect we just generate a unique login name for them.
#If you were using username to display to people you might want to get them to select one after registering through Facebook Connect
def self.create_from_fb_connect(fb_user)
new_facebooker = User.new(:name => fb_user.name, :login => "facebooker_#{fb_user.uid}", :password => "", :email => "")
new_facebooker.fb_user_id = fb_user.uid.to_i
#We need to save without validations
#We are going to connect this user object with a facebook id. But only ever one account.
def link_fb_connect(fb_user_id)
unless fb_user_id.nil?
#check for existing account
existing_fb_user = User.find_by_fb_user_id(fb_user_id)
#unlink the existing account
unless existing_fb_user.nil?
existing_fb_user.fb_user_id = nil
#link the new one
self.fb_user_id = fb_user_id
#The Facebook registers user method is going to send the users email hash and our account id to Facebook
#We need this so Facebook can find friends on our local application even if they have not connect through connect
#We hen use the email hash in the database to later identify a user from Facebook with a local user
def register_user_to_fb
users = {:email => email, :account_id => id}
self.email_hash = Facebooker::User.hash_email(email)
def facebook_user?
return !fb_user_id.nil? && fb_user_id > 0

This allows authentication to look up users either from their stored Facebook ID, or a hash of their email address. It also adds methods for our creating and linking. After any user is created we need to register them we Facebook Connect so add to the User model

after_create :register_user_to_fb

In the previous view’s Facebook Connect login button we added an after login JavaScript callback. This is to link our accounts after a user has gone through the callback process. We need to add this to the user controller

def link_user_accounts
if self.current_user.nil?
#register with fb
#connect accounts
self.current_user.link_fb_connect(facebook_session.user.id) unless self.current_user.fb_user_id == facebook_session.user.id
redirect_to '/'

Don’t forget to add a route for this, as follows (make sure you replace the existing route for :users)

map.resources :users, :collection => {:link_user_accounts => :get}

Finally we need to have somewhere to go after login. Let’s create a home page under Users controller users/home.html.erb

<% if logged_in? %>
<h2>You are logged in as <%= current_user.name %></h2>
<% if current_user.facebook_user? %>
<fb:profile-pic uid="<%= current_user.fb_user_id%>" facebook-logo="true" size="thumb" ></fb:profile-pic>
<p><a href="#" onclick='FB.Connect.logoutAndRedirect("/logout")'>Logout</a></p>
<% else %>
<p>why don't you connect with your facebook account</p>
<%= fb_login_button('window.location = "/users/link_user_accounts";')%>
<p><%= link_to 'Logout', logout_path%></p>
<% end %>
<% else %>
<h2>You are not logged in!</h2>
<p><%= link_to 'Signup', signup_path%> or <%= link_to 'Login', login_path%></p>
<% end %>

And map it to root and delete public/index.html

map.root :controller => "users", :action => "home"

And it’s done. Stop the clock. Start (or restart) the server and go to http://localhost:3000/login and press the big connect button


Login with your Facebook account. Restful Authentication with Facebook Connect. Done!


Hope this helps you guys. You can find more Facebook Connect documentation on the developer wiki. I’m hoping to add to this tutorial with posting to the feed and connecting with friends so follow me @stueccles on Twitter for updates. You can find the code for this tutorial at github.

Stuart Eccles

Stuart Eccles

Stuart has a Masters Degree in Engineering and 10 years experience as a software engineer, technical architect and management consultant working on internal systems and large-scale websites and applications. In 2007 he founded Made by Many with Tim Malbon, William Owen and Isaac Pinnock to create a new type of agency – a social technology company that works more like a web start-up.

At Made by Many Stuart acts as the managing partner and lead technologist. He is an advocate of and frequent speaker on Agile project methodologies and Lean Manufacturing philosophies applied to the strategy, design and development of digital services and products and he contributes to a number of open source projects.