Facebook Platform Week 2: Development Heats Up

The Facebook application directory, which supposedly keeps track of the “Newest” apps as well as the most popular, has not been appreciably updated in a while. A visit to an IRC channel for Facebook app developers gives one the impression of an all-out, 24-hour hackathon, everyone working feverishly to push their next app live. And a number of these applications have been successfully, if quietly, gathering traction in pockets of the social network. One simple friend-tagging app, Favorite Peeps, has over 92,000 users, which would put it in the top 20 of the “Most Users” category if it were in the directory.

Perhaps the onslaught of new apps has caught Facebook approval management by surprise, forcing them to hold back new apps which are obviously popular, and have even been around long enough to garner quite a few users. It’s unclear; but one thing that is clear is that the home-brewed app flood is on its way. And, since the official app directory hasn’t been quick enough on the uptake to handle this flood, some practical developer used the platform to create his own list of apps:

It’s called New Apps, and it has allowed new developers to submit apps without an approval delay. There are enough apps in this unofficial directory to give us an indication of what the coming weeks might hold in terms of new products.

For the most part, there’s a sense that people are trying to do anything that someone else hasn’t done yet. So the experimentation has ranged from the philosophical (here’s one app that rather self-consciously does nothing, and another that simply echoes what it hears, in proprietary Facebook-code) to the absurd.

However, most users probably don’t want a picture of a cat in a sandwich on their profile, and so the majority of these fledgling apps are efforts to port functionality found in extra-Facebook web services to Facebook itself (like stock tickers, forums, RSS feed display, to-do lists, wiki pages, sports schedules, and of course weather), or new/different/tweaked versions of existing apps, like my own Books app. Music tracking in particular seems to be well-plowed ground, with a number of Last.fm-powered apps (my personal favorite is Last.fm Plus–but stay tuned for our Music Tracker Battle Royale article in the near future).

Few of the ones I’ve seen are serious contenders for network-wide adoption, but given the excitement surrounding new ideas for apps in the development community, it’s only a matter of time before these newcomers hit on a few things that just click. And then, the brilliantly viral pathways of Facebook will be the best marketing any app ever had.