Changes to the Facebook Platform

Facebook is making some significant changes to their existing platform. There are updates coming which will “shift the balance more in favor of good apps.” While they haven’t directly specified the meaning of “good apps,” they have suggested a shift in focus with the application directory to focus more on user engagement. While there are little specifics (as usual), this will change the face of the blossoming Facebook economy.

Over the past few weeks I have spoken with a number of people who are now running their own teams that are pushing out Facebook applications. Any significant change to the measurement of successful applications could potentially have a serious backlash. Applications such as Food Fight or Vampires are going to be rewarded less since there is less user interaction within each of those apps.

Another significant change with this update is Facebook’s decision to disable “the ability to display profile content that the user isn’t aware of.” This is a huge change! For all those “daily quote” applications, they are going to require a user to click for a new quote rather than automatically updating the profile. This sounds like each time a user is about to have any application added to their profile, they are going to need to approve the content that is displayed. This is significant!

There is another feature being added that I think is quite useful for developers. Currently, each application typically has an invite box that enables users to choose which friends they invite to the application. Facebook is in the process of launching a standardized UI that each application can use making “it easier for users to understand exactly what they are doing.” One upside of this changes is that Facebook has suggested that they may “increase the maximum number of requests that can be sent out by a user.” This will be a positive result from this new change.

One thing that is sure to receive backlash from the spamming applications is Facebook’s decision to remove email functionality from the API. The aim of this change is to stop “deceptive and misleading notifications.” Ultimately, this is a positive change for users, but a definite hurdle for those that were intending to turn their apps into an email list. As I typically suggest to others, applications will need to have an email subscription box.

Finally, the viral aspect of applications is being improved slightly. Facebook has decided to enable feed stories for users that haven’t added the application. Facebook will “also begin to optimize these stories into higher rotation amongst the other application add stories.” Honestly, this is something that many users were complaining about. That was actually one of the final discussions in my NPR interview yesterday. While the news feed wasn’t the primary source of contention for users, it definitely was one focus. Ultimately, Facebook is going to be forced to allow users to disable application notifications or at least limit them. I for one, have way to many application invites on my homepage and would like to be able to control it.

One thing is for sure: Facebook is striving to make the platform experience better for users and better for developers that are building robust applications rather than one hit wonders. Some of the newly created development companies are going to be forced to rethink their strategy.