I have had the fortune to speak with one of the most successful developers on Facebook, David Gentzel. David has personally developed over 4 applications, many of which have been extremely successful. I interviewed David to get his input on the success of many Facebook applications.
How many applications have you developed for the Facebook platform and what applications are they?
So far, I’ve developed Food Fight, Trakzor, Tag, Kudos, and a few other small ones. I was working in a small team on another project when F8 hit. At that point, I became the exploratory committee and came back with some great discoveries. Now we’re all participating in the development of new social applications and have several exciting ones in the works.
What are your best performing applications?
Food Fight is the big winner so far. Though, Trakzor took off and was growing at close to 10k users per hour, but that quickly slowed down once people understood it wasn’t a Facebook profile tracker 🙂
Have you been able to monetize any of your applications yet?
Growth first, business model second 🙂 My partners are much more business savvy than I am. I worry about getting users and they focus on monetizing them in clever ways.
How many offers have you received to get acquired?
Depressingly, only one, and it wasn’t even a real purchase offer. I only had the opportunity to move and work on someone else’s ticket reservation Facebook app. Oh well…
What challenges have you faced in developing and maintaining your applications?
There was a need to get in quickly, you know…before the other 10k people finished their apps. This required cutting a lot of corners and making the right judgment calls. What products? How complete? How sophisticated? Launched in what order? Lots of mind wrenching there. The short answer was, “Keep it simple.”
Additionally, something about me doesn’t like spamming people. Yes, 2.5 million of you have gotten food thrown at you. In turn, you received a notification. But, that’s because someone, with whom you are friends with, singled you out, spent his own (not so) hard earned lunch money, and splatted you with something digitally delicious. There were no “mass invitations” sent out, nor was there dirty co-registration. The only time anyone received anything was on a one-to-one basis where there was direct and personal meaning attached to the message. Others’ applications…not so much.
It’s pretty easy to spread something when all the app does is send out 100 messages to your other friends telling them something that isn’t totally true in order to get them to install the application and send out 100 more messages. Facebook finally caught on and because this functionality was abused, it was basically turned off for everyone, but only after the big guys amassed millions of users and secured a stronghold over facebook app land.
Now, there are application beasts and a lot of soon-to-be prey. That’s not to say that the big guys don’t deserve a lot for what they’ve done. Spam or not, they got millions of users to install applications, and unless those same users uninstall them, then that speaks for itself. And, frankly, it wasn’t as if they circumvented Facebook’s rules or were breaking the law. My jaw dropped at the F8 convention as Zuckerberg went through spam tool, after spam tool, after spam tool….all available to anyone. But, now, the fact that many, if not most, of the applications that are coming out would have been 100k user successes if they launched day one and had reasonable access to these tools seems pretty unruly. Being big is generally enough to win. Being big and being pre-selected to feast on the richest means of social distribution ever provided, which now allows them to feast on the ideas of the poppers, or the poppers themselves, seems borderline cruel on the part of facebook.
So, while this isn’t a “I had to load balance a few servers” problem, this is far and away the biggest issue every developer will face trying to compete inside facebook.
What future plans do you have for developing on the Facebook platform?
Our team will continue to pursue new and innovative facebook applications as long as it makes sense to do so. Social flaws aside, it’s an amazing technical platform and is truly a huge step in the realm of social networks….errr….social graphs.