Can Useful Apps Succeed on Facebook?

Yesterday Om Malik discussed a conversation he had with Sarik Weber who’s company had developed a free SMS application on Facebook. Om as well as Sarik were surprised with the relatively low success of the application. Additionally, Om noted that the top SMS application on Facebook were only receiving around 500 active daily users. A quick glance at VOIP applications on the site yields similar results.

For Om, the lack of growth in these applications caused him to question the “viability of Facebook as a communications hub.” I disagree with Om in that Facebook is a communications hub but the only difference is that people communicate differently on the platform. While people use the Facebook based mobile site and Blackberry application, users are simply using the applications to send Facebook messages and update their statuses not leverage other applications.

Is the communication going on via Facebook the same conversation going on via email. While much of it is, most of my business communication still takes place outside of the network. As of now there are very few utility based applications that have been successful at doing anything more than building out existing Facebook features. Offering new communication channels have continuously failed on the platform.

So what will succeed? Right now widgets, games and applications that extend Facebook’s functionality appear to be in the lead. We have yet to see the success of enterprise applications on the Facebook platform. Will robust applications that support productivity ever succeed on the site? I doubt it. Facebook is a tool for productivity. What do you think? Are there any highly useful and highly functional applications that you spend a lot of time on?