Ruby on Rails and Facebook API (Koala): Basic Example

Talking to a developer today about getting her toes wet in Ruby and Facebook. I wrote up this simple example of how to set it up.

First, Koala is a lightweight, transparent library for Facebook API calls. I’m pretty happy with it- the developer is very responsive and since I know the Facebook API, it’s nice that there’s not much burdensome renaming and such.

So, this is for Rails 3.
1. Install on local system the Koala gem:

sudo gem install koala –version=1.2.1

Add to Gemfile:

gem ‘koala’, ’1.2.1′

Hey, we’re on Rails, why don’t you use the Koala-Rails gem! Well I did, but now I don’t because it’s not up-to-date, mainly in accordance with the latest Koala gem, which had some nifty photo upload-from-AWS abilities.


Authentication (“oauth/auth”) is always the first step. Check out this reference: “Koala on Rails” on the wiki (don’t be confused- it’s not about the gem koala-rails, but about Koala ON Rails). Anyway, In that post, I do “via redirects” because- and this is especially relevant for Facebook iFrame app developers– browsers won’t allow third parties cookies, so all of the cookie management and auth stuff is relatively useless. I use the “url_for_oauth_code” method in Koala to get the right authentication url, have the user click to it, and in the return trip, grab the access token with the “get_access_token” method- and save it to a session variable. I leave it to Rails to deal with the hows and whats of session management.


First, In config/initializers/constants.rb, setup some constants for your key Facebook app info- the APP_ID, SITE_URL, etc. all cribbed from the Facebook application page. Note: the REDIRECT_URI will be the SITE_URL + “/callback”. The callback method handles the goods once Facebook returns from its authentication journey.

Then, create a few methods (remember to add routes.rb entries) to handle the auth flow.

require "koala"

def start
  redirect_to @oauth.url_for_oauth_code(:permissions=>"my permissions")

def callback
  session[:access_token] = @oauth.get_access_token(params[:code])
  redirect_to(:action=>"my action")

Does that make sense? You create a redirect uri, and then you push the user to the auth url (with the redirect_uri encoded in the querystring). On the return trip Facebook will send them to the redirect_uri. Then, you get a “code” in the querystring from FB, and the oauth object can evaluate that and grab the access token. Once you have that set- you can willy-nilly query the API object, as follows:

require ‘koala’

def some_method
  @api =[:access_token])
    @graph_data = @api.get_object("/me/photos")
  rescue Exception=>ex
    puts ex.message

  @graph_data do |photo|
    puts "my photo: #{}"

Voila! There are many more methods than “get_object”- and far more friendly. It’s just the most closely aligned with the Facebook Graph API.

  • Ram

    It is a good article i found while search about koala in google ocean . and one query i have regarding Koala i.e How can i do invite friends uisng Koala gem in rails application.

  • Mustafa ┼×ahin

    Hi Anna,

    I wanted to thank you for this great post. I've learned a lot in here. :)

  • Pandurengaraj Balraj


    I am trying to make the session to nil and making the facebook to login once again is there any way of repeated login as I need.

  • sonu kumar

    Hi, i'm trying to create a iframe fb app. This auth method works fine but my application goes out of iframe and doesn't open in the fb. If i provide redirect_uri to my canvas page url , it failed to retrieve ':code' param. Any help would be great. :(

  • I know how to do iFrame apps with PHP, but not Rails, not sure if that helps. The way you manage that is that you send it the same way to authenticate, but in the HREF to auth, remember to type "_top" to access the authentication flow through Facebook (not in the frame). When Facebook sends the user back to your app, you will be on the main index page. Sniff for the signed_request post object, and that will have a UID, noting that the user has authenticated. Koala has a flow for this, I just didn't do an example for that.

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