Is Facebook Inflating Application Active Users?

In a blog post last Saturday, Pete Bratach stated that “We now count tab views toward your applications’ active users. The count occurs on the initial page load of the profile, in addition to a user explicitly clicking the tab.” It was a minor change but one that could potentially inflate application metrics substantially.

Previously active users were not counted until the user actually interacted with the application. That could include clicking on a profile box but now it just represents a user viewing the “Boxes” tab. For those few individuals that actually visit the “Boxes” tab, I’d guess that they aren’t viewing every box on the page. Ultimately this ends up inflating the active users as far as I can tell.

Then again, I don’t even navigate to the “Boxes” tab on friends’ profiles but I do know that in order to view all the boxes on my page you would have to navigate well below the fold. So why has Facebook decided to switch to this new metric? Honestly I have no idea. The only rationale I can think of is to artificially boost the active user metrics for applications.

Does Facebook really have an incentive to boost active users within applications? Well it makes sense in terms of Facebook wanting applications to look more popular than they are in order to drive new developers to the platform. I doubt this is the rationale though. Facebook already has plenty of popular applications and it doesn’t make sense to inflate the numbers any more.

Josh Elman posted a comment below clarifying what was taking place. As he states “In the cases discussed above, an ‘active’ user of an application is counted only when a user views a profile with the specific application tab selected.” In other words the “Boxes” tab is not being considered for active users unless a user actually interacts with that box.