Facebook Updates Platform Policy on Hidden Features

Three days ago, MySpace added several new restrictions to its Platform guidelines that prohibit applications from offering incentives to users for sending messages to friends. The new guidelines apply to both offering game-like rewards and restricting access to application features. The development community is reacting as you would expect, and game developers here at the InterPlay social games conference are particularly feeling the pain.

Today, perhaps in response to the MySpace policy update, Facebook announced an update to its Platform guidelines prohibiting applications from requiring users to send messages in order to gain access application features. While Facebook has officially not allowed forced invites for a long time, this update makes the rule more broadly applicable. The new policy says,

[Applications cannot] Require that users invite, notify, or otherwise communicate with one or more friends to gain access to any feature, information, or portion of the application, unless (a) it would be logically impossible to deliver that content without the user’s friend(s) also using the application, and (b) the fact of this requirement, and the reason(s) for it, are explicitly and prominently explained inside the application before the first element of the flow path users would reasonably expect to lead to that content.

However, Facebook did not add the same guidelines on incentives – that would have a big impact on many social game developers.