Is The Competition Getting To Facebook?

Facebook's policies say that any application running on the site is prohibited from integrating or linking in any way to any app on a competing social platform.

A delicate dance of moves and counter moves between Facebook, Google Plus and app developers has broken out — evidenced by the changes in social games both companies announced on Thursday — and is leaving some wondering if the competition is getting to the social networking site.

Google Plus launched its game stream platform yesterday, and Facebook immediately replied with an announcement of its own set of games enhancements, explaining why their new homepage tweaks and enhancements are making games more accessible to users, as well as making it easier for friends to share game activities.

Talk about letting the games begin!

Now TechCrunch says that stealth new platform policies that Facebook announced last month may be a response to the rise of Google Plus.

What’s as noteworthy as the policies themselves is the fact that the changes were not announced on the developer blog or any of the usual places on Facebook.

Here’s the first significant policy change as reported by TechCrunch:

I.10. Applications may reward users with virtual currency or virtual goods in exchange for user actions that do not involve third parties, but rewards for user actions that involve third parties must be powered by Facebook Credits by integrating Facebook Credits offers.

That seems reasonable, as Facebook only wants its credit system used as a plethora of new credit systems and third party developers exist. Now, here’s the big change:

I.11. Apps on Facebook may not integrate, link to, promote, distribute, or redirect to any app on any other competing social platform.

That’s huge, and means that any app that runs on Facebook is prohibited from integrating or linking in any way linking to any app on a competing social platform.

While this new policy is consistent with Facebook’s advertising policies, the decision could affect a broad array of platforms including gamers, Google Plus and even Twitter.

And there’s a whiff of anti-competitiveness to the new policy, which probably accounts for the quiet manner in which the changes were rolled out.

TechCrunch quoted a Facebook spokesperson:

As many companies do, we have policies that prohibit apps from directing users to apps on competing social platforms. We recently updated these policies to ensure they’re clear for developers building on our platform.

But it’s really not very clear what the new policy means for standalone sites, such as Twitter. And it’s really such a bold move against Facebook’s competition that we wonder whether a public relations brouhaha is brewing. Either Facebook is going to have to walk back the policies, or further explain its impact to specific audiences.

Readers, do you think Facebook’s new gaming changes and developer policies are anti-competitive?