Just as the holidays have swung into full force, so has the amount of application spam within the Facebook platform. There have been several threads on the Developer Forums reporting such applications, and one in particular has spawned some ideas about ways to significantly reduce application spam in general.
While Facebook has both automated and manual methods for decreasing the spam of applications which abuse notifications (bucket allocation and user reports, respectively), these have not stopped some developers from simply creating new applications and cross-promoting them with their existing abusing applications to literally gain hundreds of thousands of users overnight. Those developers then repeat the process as soon as the new application’s allocation buckets sink too low, or if the application happens to be suspended. It is a cat and mouse game between the offending developers and Facebook trying to keep the platform clean.
Facebook’s recently announced Application Verification Program has taken aim at increasing user trust in applications, and with this should come a decrease in the amount of spam users receive. However, because the program is opt-in, there is no reason the current trend of offending applications won’t continue. Unless the average user genuinely feels that unverified applications are poor enough in quality to not be installed, application spam will continue to exist.
One idea that has come up is to introduce a more stringent Developer Verification program. The concept looks something like this: Developers are free to experiment on the platform and create applications. However, if they want their applications to become public, then they will have to become verified. This might include submitting official identification (and/or possibly paying a fee) to become approved. Beyond that, the platform would exist mostly as it does today.
The difference would lie in the enforcement of the platform policies, especially regarding spam and user trust. For example, if an application developer is found to continually violate the spirit of the platform, they may be banned.
However, as with any new idea, there are several drawbacks to this approach. Companies which employ several different developers may find loopholes such as re-registering under a different developer’s identification. Also, this Developer Verification method would tend to punish currently honest developers. Facebook has confirmed that they are also in the process of finding a way to somehow reduce the amount of platform spam, but so far nothing else has been mentioned.
So while there is no definitive answer to this problem yet, Facebook looks to be commited to solving the spam problem within their platform. What ideas do you have? If you are registered on the Developer Forums feel free to contribute here, or simply leave a comment below.