Facebook Adds Team Focused on Games, Plans New Communication Channels System

More big changes are coming to Facebook’s communication channels this year, as Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor told us in an interview recently. They’re worth a closer look, as they’re likely to impact all developers, and especially social game developers.

The first is an automated spam filter for all Facebook communication channels. Granted, the spam problem has lessened as Facebook has removed some entirely, like notifications, or scaled back others, like news feed stories and requests. Here’s the relevant excerpt, from Taylor:

So rather than saying you’re not allowed to do X, Y, and Z with a dialog box in your game, if you’re sending useless messages from your game, we just won’t deliver them, and we’ll give you that feedback. And then you can change the way you send messages to send higher signal-to-noise content. This is something that we just haven’t invested enough in, but we now have a very large team working on spam and quality. That will touch all of our communication channels, and news feed. This is going to be a year-long project though, because we’re not going to remove the policies until we know that the system that replaces it is high quality.

Expect Facebook to start sharing more about its plans here in the coming months. If it wasn’t obvious already, given Facebook’s changes to date, developers should think about how to provide useful communication in their apps.

But it’s not just more automated punishment ahead. Taylor also said that the company is giving social gaming a new focus, describing games as a “killer app” on the platform. From the interview:

The other initiative is we have a team exclusively focused on games now. Internally, we’ve always known this, but now we’re formally recognizing it, that just like photos, just like events, games are a killer app on Facebook, and a primary part of the user experience on Facebook. We have product managers and engineers who are extremely talented now working on it.

Right now we have a Games dashboard that I would say is pretty uninspired. It works, but it’s not something that I think is revolutionary. We have a team now who is responsible for making games successful on Facebook as a category, and when we make changes to our overall product, we’re going to track the effects on that category just like we track the effects on photos and events on Facebook.

In other words, when Facebook makes larger changes — say, updates to the home page this fall — it will closely examine how that impacts social game developers. The company has no doubt done this in the past. Taylor’s point is more that it will now be very careful about how other changes might accidentally harm games. His conclusion on these changes:

Over the next 3-6 months those effects will be noticeable, I think they’ll have the effect that we won’t inadvertently affect the ecosystem by our own product changes. Then, we can slowly make our policies higher level and more “spirit of the law” instead of letter of the law because we’ll have these automated systems to enforce them in a more natural way.