Facebook Attempts to Guide Developer Creativity

Last week, Facebook posted the following news announcement:

Developers – Now is the time to build education applications on Facebook Platform! Facebook will be phasing out its Courses feature in early August, and we wanted to make sure you were the first to know.

Collaboration services and applications are a big part of the world of Education. Especially on college campuses, where we first found our roots. Many of you have probably used some kind of collaboration software as a part of your courses. Our courses application was a great way to connect with new friends, and find your classmates. But, we think Facebook Developers can create even more robust ways to create, connect, and collaborate around teaching and learning in the classroom.

This is a great business opportunity, with vast distribution potential, and a great way to fundamentally affect an important part of the lives of students worldwide.

Rather than trying to drive creativity within their company, Facebook has decided to look elsewhere for creative input. Additionally, they would like someone else to build some of their applications. Here’s my translation of Facebook’s announcement: “Hi developers! Let us let you in on a secret: we are removing the courses feature on our site. First, go develop the same application if you want to grab a few thousand users that miss the feature. Second, go and build us an application similar to Blackboard. We have enough to currently worry about, so do us a favor and go build us the app. Oh … one other thing … we have told all the other developers about this opportunity so you might want to hurry up if you are going to seize the moment!”

I understand Facebook wanting to increase their feature set, but do you find it a little odd that they are now trying to guide what applications developers build? Perhaps this is their way of saying that they will purchase any company that builds a robust enough educational application. I think this means something completely different: Facebook has their hands tied. While I won’t hypothesize about what exactly Facebook is building, they are definitely up to something big. There has been the opportunity to improve upon Facebook’s educational features since the platform launched, so why have they decided to announce this now? Maybe I’m reading into this too much. Any ideas?