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facebook.S4 allows users to connect to Facebook through OAuth and get different kinds of content using the Facebook Graph API and organize it in a convenient set of S4 classes called collections. This allows to chain queries in the typical graph-oriented fashion of the Facebook API.

This project started as a fork of the Rfacebook package by Pablo Barbera, but it ended up as a complete rewrite, as I needed to better exploit the graph nature of the API and since I was a bit disappointed that the original package functions were not vectorized. Still, this package uses the fbOAuth function from Rfacebook, which is simply perfect.

Tutorials can be found at


Since the package is not yet available on CRAN, the fastest way to install it is pulling out the code from GitHub directly using the devtools package:



Most API requests require the use of an access token.

There are two ways of making authenticated requests with facebook.S4. One option is to generate a temporary token on the Graph API Explorer. Then just copy and paste the code into the R console and save it as a string vector to be passed as the token argument to any function or Collection constructor.While really easy, however, please note that this access token will only be valid for two hours.

# token generated here: 
fb_token <- "XXXXXXXXXXXXXX"

It is possible to generate a 'long-lived' token (valid for two months) using the fbOAuth function, but the process is a bit longer. For a step-by-step tutorial, check this setup tutorial.

Package structure

There are two main kinds of elements in the package:

A special kind of collection called FacebookMixedCollection is used when you don't know in advance which kind of data you'll get from Facebook. For example, when you try to get a list of participants of a conversation, which can be users or pages.

While the set of Finders is very far to be considered as complete, the set of Collections covers already almost all the typical major items used in Facebook like posts, comments, likes, groups, albums and so on.

First use: build a Facebook application

Before using this application, you need to build a Facebook application to authenticate facebook.S4 against.

Since the procedure was covered many times, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. This tutorial will definitively help you, as facebook.S4 inherits the OAuth model from that package.

Chaining a request

Almost all the Collections support chaining. It means, you can pass a collection as a source parameter to another one to chain complex requests. For example, let's say we want to get informations about who put a like on the feed for a set of pages:

# Assuming fb_token is valid

# First, we build the collection of pages. Since we're not interested in pages, we download no fields for pages
fb.pages <- FacebookPagesCollection(id = c("9thcirclegames", "linuspage", fb_token, fields = ""))

# Then, we pull out the last 20 posts for each page. Again, no fields here
# When you pass another collection as source parameter, you can omit the token
# (if you want to use the same, of course)
fb.posts <- FacebookPostsCollection(fb.pages, fields = "", n = 20)

# Now, we're going to get all the likes. We want 'em all
fb.likes <- FacebookLikesCollection(fb.posts, fields = "", n = Inf)

# Finally, get the users
fb.users <- FacebookUsersCollection(fb.likes, fields = c("id", "profile_type"))

You can eventually use the chain operator %>% for a more compact and elegant code:

# Get the comments to the posts of the pages above
pages %>% 
    FacebookPostsCollection(fields = "") %>%
    FacebookCommentsCollection(fields = c("id", "from.fields(id,name)", "message", "created_time"))

Please note that if you don't specify the field argument, a default set of fields is pulled.

Parent collections

As said before, you can build a collection passing a list of IDs of the same kind or from another collection.

If this is the case, two additional slots of the collections will be fed:

From the previous example, this is absolutely legit:

# This returns a character vector with "9thcirclegames", "linuspage"

Watch out the memory consumption! Parent collections could be really memory consuming. Keep calm and do gc()!

Methods available for collections

Method Effect on collection Note [] Subsetting Filter by index or by ID, returns a Collection of the same kind c Combine Combine elements of two or more collections. Duplicated IDs are discarded only if the have different parents. as.list Convert to a list Return a list representation of a Collection Convert to a data.frame Return a data.frame representation of a Collection length Counts the elements Return the length of a collection summary Prints a summary Prints a summary view of the details of a collection


theclue/facebook.S4 documentation built on May 31, 2019, 9:11 a.m.