After 6-month run, page tab application no longer tops Facebook apps by MAU

Static HTML: iFrame Tabs — a utility for page owners to customize their pages with landing tabs and applications — has fallen to No. 2 on the AppData chart for top applications by monthly active users after more than 6 months at No. 1.

The app lost its position on Thursday, leaving room for Yahoo Social Bar to take the lead. The two were tied on Wednesday with 42 million MAU, but Yahoo still doesn’t have quite as many users as Static HTML did on Tuesday.

Across the board, page tab applications like those from Thunderpenny, Woobox and a number of music-focused developers, are losing users more quickly than they ever gained them. Open Graph applications, like Yahoo Social Bar, are among the fastest growing and top overall applications by monthly active users. This is a trend we expect to continue over the course of the year until Facebook at some point eliminates page tabs completely.

The Thunderpenny-developed Static HTML app lost about half of its monthly active users since Facebook widely implemented Timeline for pages and removed the default landing tab option in March. The app overtook CityVille and The Sims Social for the No. 1 spot on Oct. 16, 2011, with 61 million MAU. It grew to a peak of 89.7 million MAU on Feb. 14, but has since dropped to 41.2 million MAU, according to our AppData tracking service.

At the same time, Yahoo’s social reading integration has grown to 42.4 million MAU, largely because of the viral nature of Open Graph: stories automatically post to Timeline, Ticker and News Feed when users engage with the app. Because of the emphasis on News Feed discovery, Open Graph applications can regularly draw users back to their apps. Yahoo Social Bar also benefits from living off-Facebook. Yahoo can capitalize on the massive amounts of traffic it already has on its site.

In contrast, page tab applications are rarely discovered unless a page directs an ad campaign to the tab. These apps then struggle with re-engagement because users rarely return to fan pages after clicking Like. Another issue is that page tabs aren’t available on mobile devices, whereas many Open Graph apps are. For example, Yahoo has a mobile web app version of its social news reader, which Facebook says was getting 1.4 million visits a day in February.

Although Static HTML and other page tab apps still have millions of users today, we can only foresee their numbers continuing to fall. As mobile usage increases, the potential audience for these apps shrinks. There is also the growing trend of pages running Sponsored Stories and page-post ads, which unlike traditional Facebook ads, cannot lead directly to a tab application. We can imagine Facebook completely eliminating its traditional ad format within the next year or two. It could also do away with third-party page tab applications completely in favor of the Timeline activity box display it uses for personal profiles. Either way, it’s clear that Facebook believes in Open Graph as the future of its platform and developers will need to respond accordingly to maintain relevance moving forward.

[Updated 5/5/12 10:32 a.m. PT – It’s also worth mentioning that MAU is calculated differently for Open Graph apps and tab apps. Users have to allow permissions for an Open Graph app to count as an active user, whereas anyone who visits a tab counts as active. This means tab applications likely report inflated MAU and keep them higher in the leaderboards, when their actual engagement is far less than that of a canvas or off-Facebook app.]