Amit Gupta on an Amazin' Facebook App

Amit GuptaI had the opportunity to speak with Amit Gupta following the launch of his popular Amazin’ Giftbox application. Amit has launched a number of applications already but the Amazin’ Giftbox has been growing at a rapid pace. I have spoken with Amit on a number of instances regarding Facebook development. He has an impressive resume. He co-wrote a book titled “The Big Moo,” founded the daily jolt which is now the home screen for computers across a number of college campuses, brought BarCamp to New York City, worked with Seth Godin to start a non-profit called “Change This,” and was one of the Facebook platform launch partners. Since the launch of the platform he has created a number of applications. Below is my interview with Amit.

So a couple days ago on your post you mentioned that your Amazin’ Giftbox application (that we profiled on AllFacebook.com) was growing at 20% a day. Are you still experiencing rapid growth?

Yeah, it’s been kind of astonishing that the pace has kept up and even accelerated as time has gone on. The actual rate of daily growth has varied –up to 25%+ some days, down to 6% other days. Some of it is cyclical according to expected Facebook traffic variations, the rest is based on other factors like platform uptime issues, etc.

So far over 70,000 people have added the application. Do you keep statistics as to what percentage of those are actually active users?

Not at the moment, though we are starting to develop a more robust statistics collection framework.

The application is obviously built for the purpose of generating revenue and allowing the users to have fun while they use it. Have you been able to generate any measurable amount of revenue?

Actually we launched it with a few goals in mind–adding a new fun app to facebook and making some affiliate revenue were definitely part of it, but we also wanted to get some more experience building high-traffic, high-user applications on facebook and learning how to deal with some of the scaling issues on this particular platform.

We’re starting to talk to people about developing larger-scale applications on the facebook platform — I’ve assembled a small team of developers that are taking on this kind of work, people with expertise developing on existing platforms and APIs (facebook, Flickr, Amazon’s API, Salesforce.com) There’s a lot of issues that are unique to developing on a platform as opposed to developing for the web, and learning how to overcome and work around those issues for each platform requires you to actually build apps and make mistakes. Giftbox grew fast — 90,000 users in just a few weeks and should top 100,000 soon. It’s given us a great opportunity to poke at this platform and learn the ins and outs.

Do you think that creating applications with the aim of generating revenue from sources other than advertising is a wise decision?

I think non-advertising sources of revenue make a lot of sense, whether you’re developing on the naked web or on a platform, absolutely. Facebook has been very open and inclusive in letting companies monetize in whatever ways they come up with, and I think you’ll see some really interesting developments in this area in the near future.

From your experience what were the biggest challenges in developing your application?

Facebook is a new platform, and it’s constantly changing. The API’s evolving, restrictions on what you can do are changing, things that worked last week might no necessarily work this week. It’s not like developing your own web app or desktop app, there’s a lot more variables to consider. And that’s before you even start thinking about the social impact these apps and the behavioral and attitudinal changes you’re starting to see as users start to embrace applications in facebook.

What advice would you give to those that are looking to develop their own application?

If it’s a simple app and you have technical skills, dive right in and figure it out. If you’re planning on doing something more robust to support a lot of users, don’t have technical skills, or want to add an app to supplement an existing business, consider hiring dedicated developers for the task or hiring an outside team.

Many of the more popular apps really grew out of control as the original developers and companies found they didn’t have the experience needed to scale and couldn’t support the large number of users jumping on board. Now we’re starting to see the opposite problem: companies putting up apps without a good understanding of how applications should behave in the facebook ecosystem and the opportunities the platform offers. As a result, their apps languish with just a few hundred users.

I know that you have been involved as well as created a number of other web startups including Photojojo. Two questions: One, Are you looking to take a break and focus only on Facebook applicaitons? Second, do you plan on building Facebook applications for your existing websites?

I was one of the launch partners for the facebook platform, so Photojojo had an app ready on the day of the launch. Sadly, it was much like some of the apps I mentioned above — not designed to take advantage of the facebook ecosystem. We might do another one that’s a bit more platform-savvy.

While I’m not taking a break from my normal work, I am working with a few partners to develop facebook apps for others, I think there’s an opportunity here to architect and build robust platform applications, and it’s a space I’m really interested in.

If you would like to get in touch with Amit you can go get all his info at AmitGupta.com.