Yesterday, Facebook reached the fourth anniversary of the Facebook platform, marking a major milestone for the now global social network.
When the Facebook platform first launched in 2007, the site had a little over 10 million users at the time. Since then, Facebook has exploded in popularity and is now a global phenomenon.
Much of Facebook’s success has been a result of the platform, which has become best known for the massive game companies that have been built on top of it. Zynga, Playdom, Playfish, CrowdStar, and others have profited significantly from platform. Similarly, there were numerous smaller successes (too many to count) not just limited to gaming.
LivingSocial pivoted from being one of the largest Facebook application developers to becoming a deals platform, growing in size to rival Groupon.
For all the successes, there have been many hurdles for developers to overcome throughout the year. Platform instability, major updates hat have forced developers to pull all-nighters, and other dramatic changes to communication channels have together resulted in an entirely different landscape from when things first began.
The platform probably presented the greatest opportunity for any web developer looking to build a business, at the time. Since then, the rise of mobile platforms (namely, Apple IOS and Android) has given many developers an entirely different distribution channel.
At the same time, the Facebook platform has matured, evolving to a point where applications are no longer about throwing things at each other, but instead high quality user experiences that require relatively significant investments by developers both in time and money.
Since last year, when the Facebook platform was at a crossroads, the company has implemented a number of major changes, the most significant of which was the forced implementation of Credits for gamers.
In addition to continuing to generate ad revenue from canvas applications, Facebook is now taking a 30 percent cut of all virtual goods sales on the platform. Currently, we’ve projected the social network’s cut at hundreds of millions of dollars, but the company most definitely has high hopes for its virtual currency.
Over the past year, Facebook has also come under fire for additional privacy oversights, including a huge uproar over Rapleaf, which was quickly banned from the platform. The result has been a switch to OAuth 2.0, and the requirement for developers to obtain SSL certificates for their applications.
While the new requirements won’t be enforced until later this year, it’s clear that security is now a top priority for the company, especially since the U.S. Congress is now looking into the company’s privacy practices.
One thing that the past four years has taught any ambitious Internet entrepreneur: making some mistakes along the way is quite alright.
While Facebook has stumbled numerous times, it seems that they’ve always been able to get up, brush things off, and quickly obtain millions of additional users. The company is now second only to Google, which has become increasingly threatened by the social network.
Simply put, Facebook is all grown up, and the platform has grown too.
While small developers continue to test the dynamics of the Facebook platform, it has primarily shifted to an identity service for most, with very basic levels of distribution.
The businesses that first started four years ago have grown into large organizations that have been acquired, have obtained massive investments, or have simply disappeared as a mostly forgotten artifact of the past.
With the largest developer, Zynga, preparing to file for an initial public offering in the coming weeks, it’s clear that the Facebook platform has come a very long way in a relatively short amount of time.