A Closer Look at Phrases, the Second-Largest App on Facebook

For a long while the Facebook application Phrases has sat beneath Zynga’s FarmVille as the second largest app on the social network. Earning an impressive 36.3 million monthly active users and nearly 5 million daily active users, the title is still steadily growing and has been for the last month. The growth and success, however, leads to the question of how it garners such success.

Phrases does nothing special to earn its popularity and is merely an application that allows users to express themselves through their Facebook walls using user-generated images and, well, phrases.

Immediately after jumping in, the user is presented with a list of random images and topics that can be tailored to men or women. Upon clicking on one that seems preferential, it will pop up with a random response or phrase. Typically, since the Phrases topics are user generated, the tend to stem from questions such as “What Character Are You?” or from more general comments such as “What your mood is today.” You can then choose to post to your wall and publish to your news feed for your friends to see.

With hundreds of phrases, it can be a bit difficult to find the gems. There is a search mechanic, but it feels a little bit ineffective, as while it finds words in a phrase, it doesn’t have a means to sort by topic. Everything is melded together from love and dating, to cartoon characters and monsters, to motivational and horoscope.

The app is also international, in that there are dozens of phrases in different languages also present. Again, however, these are thrown into the mix, presenting even more to sift through. Luckily, along with the search mechanic, they can be sorted by language.

Despite the vast selection of phrases and sayings to pick from, the real draw of the app comes from the ability to create one’s own phrases. Allowing users to use their own images, sayings, answers, and even the wall post users will see is likely the largest contributor to the application’s popularity.

What makes the success of Phrases even more of an enigma, is that the app isn’t even presented very well. Riddled with obnoxious advertisements and a terrible (well, essentially non-existent) interface, it’s a token to the power behind user-generated content and simple publishing features.