Will Facebook Users Share Their Email Address with App Developers?

As part of Facebook’s Platform roadmap rollout, applications will no longer be able to send notifications to users – instead, Facebook is creating an new API through which users can explicitly deliver their email addresses to developers, and also creating a new counters for developers to show on app bookmarks. Because many developers have used notifications to send both user-to-user and app-to-user updates, this is obviously going to mean big changes for some applications.

How will users respond to applications requesting their email address? This is one of developers’ biggest questions about the changes to Facebook’s viral channels. Granting access to the Facebook notifications stream is one thing, but granting access to the email inbox is another. If early reactions we’re seeing in one larger application are anything to go by, the answer is “not very well”.

Honesty BoxThe application Honesty Box has been around since the first days of the platform. It has maintained consistently high usage after more than two years on the Facebook Platform. At the core of the application is the anonymous messaging system which, simply put, sends a user a notification if another user writes a message in their honesty box.

The planned removal of user-to-user notifications obviously causes some problems with this workflow, especially for those who may retain the app for a long time but only use it infrequently (as is be the case with any utility application). The application counters will partially help, with only a few bookmark spots available, some of these long-term utility applications may not make it into everybody’s lists.

In order to try to pre-empt losing contact with their users, the developers of Honesty Box published the following stream message to fans:

… make sure to bookmark the app and give us your email because notifications as you know them are going away and it will be hard for us to let you know you have new messages.

The selection of user comments below may not be surprising to those who are skeptical about how ready users will be to hand over their e-mail address:

“then i guess i won’t be notified… no way i need more spam in my email”
“its just a scam to get peoples info”
“Na im not giving my email out neither”
“I’ve bookmarked it but not giving u email”
“why would you get rid if the notifacations and make it thru e mail that is just stupide”
“haha im not giving my email out, who do you think we are? USER POWER!!”
“on the safe side, i think I’ll choose keeping my comp virus/spam free..thanks anyway~”
“im not giving my email out ya right! what app ask for your email.”
“Ya’all might wanna be careful what info you give out on here, or what links you click on…I have heard there are viruses and malware lurking around.”

If these responses are anything to go by (and bear in mind that these are users who have actively become fans of the application) then it seems like many applications are going to have trouble getting users to share their email addresses. Much like any other web app developer, Facebook app developers are going to have to really engage and earn the trust of their users in order to get a significant number of user emails.