Ben Ling, Ruchi Sanghvi, Josh Elman, and Dave Morin from the Facebook Platform team are here for the “Facebook Live” group-keynote moderated by Dave McClure.
Ben: There’s been a lot of growth over the last year. 400,000 developers, 25,000 applications, 55 developer garages around the world. Recently, we open sourced our Facebook Platform to allow developers to learn more about how it works and contribute back. We recently announced Facebook Connect, which allows users to take their friends and privacy around the web. We’re also working as you know on the profile redesign, which we think provides an improved user experience.
Ruchi: We’ve discovered a trend that the size of content created has been decreasing but the frequency of content creation has been increasing. That’s why we want to make feeds more important on the profile, and give users more control over how it appears, and give engaging apps more opportunities for profile integration.
Dave: Are developer and user interests really aligned? Developers want as much of their stuff on your profile page, users want clean profile pages.
Ben: They are aligned long term, developers who want to create long term value don’t abuse their users. Over the last year the developer community learned a lot of viral techniques to grow. We expected developers to build apps the same way we at Facebook have, but some did and some didn’t. So we added some controls to the system like feedback allocations. There are some great applications out there that never forced invites and are inherently great social applications, like (fluff)Friends or Who Has the Biggest Brain? We want to help these applications get into the hands of our users. We want to see more apps that users love and want to share with their friends.
Ruchi: The Feed tab is front and center with the redesign, and there are new ways that developers can publish into the Feed tab. There are also now application tabs, and there are still profile boxes.
Josh: Facebook is really about the social flow of communication. When I read a newspaper article and share it with my friend, we want to make it easy to do exactly that type of thing on Facebook. The different sizes of feed stories will allow deeper, richer communication. Feed stories that get user approval should get spread and distributed a lot more through Facebook channels like the News Feed than ones that the user may or may not have wanted.
Dave: How to you handle policy enforcement?
Josh: In an ideal world, you don’t have to do this. In the real world, we’ve learned a lot over the last year. Six months ago, forced invites were somewhat common. We have a good team working on policing apps. But we want to reward good actors in the system, and will provide sterner enforcemens against those who aren’t.
Dave: How do you do automated enforcement vs. user feedback?
Ruchi: Allocation for distribution channels are now based on user feedback. That’s the primary input, and since we made that change, the acceptance rate for requests has gone up 30%.
Ben: Some of the things we’re thinking about non-algorithmically are programs that get great applications into the hands of our users.
Dave: What about pay to play or affiliate programs?
Ben: We’re thinking about all the things you mentioned 🙂
Dave: What can you talk about your payment platform?
Ben: We definitely will be offering a program for developers to accept payments from users, but we don’t have specific dates to announce today.
Dave: Given initiatives like Facebook Connect, where is the Platform going?
Dave Morin: The goal for Facebook Connect is to allow users to authenticate at different web sites and bring pieces of their real identity in, like their friends or privacy. People want to bring their friends with them on the web. And dynamic privacty is really important – when you make changes to your profile or settings inside Facebook, you want those changes to replicate wherever you go. If you decide to block someone on Facebook, you want that to apply elsewhere as well.
Dave: How are you going to make dynamic privacy settings easy for users to figure out?
Dave Morin: You would be surprised by the percentage of people that actually change their privacy settings. Our goal of Facebook Connect is to extend that same control and trust outside the Facebook environment.
Dave: What type of use cases will developers have off Facebook that they don’t have now?
Dave Morin: A good example is Digg, one of our launch partners. When you’re on Digg, you have the option to connect your Digg account to your Facebook account. Now, you can see what everyone is digging most. With this little bit of social context, you can now see more valuable things like what are my friends digging. And Digg can ask you if you want your Digg activity stream to be syndicated back into your Facebook profile.
Dave: How do I make sure that when I Digg a certain site my friends or mom don’t see it?
Ben: We’re working on that. Over time, we’re giving users more and more control.
Dave: When I tried to use a Google Friend Connect app recently, Facebook’s label was “blocked by Facebook.” Are you guys going to be able to work together?
Ben: We are talking with Google to try to figure out how to work together in this space. We want to figure out how to make it work for users, developers, and privacy. We hope we can work it out.
Dave: What’s up with fbFund? We haven’t heard much on that lately.
Josh: This was launched last fall with Founders Fund and Accel as a way to give grants to developers.
Ben: We’ve given somewhere between 2 and 10 grants, between $25k and $250k. We want to give out more grants to smaller entrepreneurs.
Josh: We’ve got 5-10 more coming down the pipe. Anybody can apply at developers.facebook.com and it goes into the review process.
Dave: There are always concerns about competing with the platform, for example on things like monetization. Can you give direction on what you guys are working on?
Ben: As far as monetization goes, there are two buckets: payments and advertising. On payments, we’ve publicly stated that we intend to build a service to allow developers to accept payments. On advertising, there are a lot of great third party services that have been built so far, and we may or may not (editor’s comment: ha!) build an advertising service for developers in the future. We have not made a decision either way.
Question from Keith Schacht: Do you think there is more opportunity to enforce policies rather than lock down the APIs?
Ben: It’s both. Yes, we can do a better job of enforcing our policies. We have a full time team looking at the top applications, and we’re also working on programs to get good apps into the hands of our users.
Question: What metrics are you guys going to make available to developers?
Ben: Philosophically we want to make as many metrics available as we can to developers. Some metrics are not available for a variety of reasons, like gaming the system. We are currently working on figuring out a way to bucket applications into those that are of “unknown” quality and those that are known to be of “good” quality.
Josh: We’ve also made APIs available for developers to share statistics with other developers, for example there could be better statistics applications. We’re actively looking at providing more stats to better behaving apps.
Question from Nick O’Neil: Are there any protections for developers that have built sizable and legitimate businesses on your platform?
Josh: There are two questions here – what are we doing to make sure businesses grow and succeed, and how are we communicating those changes. On the second, we’re working to communicate as much as possible to developers. We’ve had the previews page for months, and the sandbox launched about a month ago. We also talk about it at developer garages. We’ve been getting a lot of bug reports and developers are very active on that right now. On the first question, we are not trying to risk the businesses of developers, we’re trying to improve the user’s experience and improve the system overall.