Facebook’s Latest Punishments Hit LOLapps, Other Developers

Last Friday, Facebook said that it would punish developers who sold information to third-party advertisers, part of the company’s most recent privacy issues set off by the Wall Street Journal. Facebook did not name which developers would be impacted, only saying that it would be under a dozen and “mostly small developers”.

Over the weekend, we’ve looked at a number of apps on Facebook, and found that the suspensions — more on those in a moment — are potentially not limited to only small developers, with four of the companies possibly involved having over five million monthly active users.

LOLapps, a company named several times in the WSJ’s articles, remains significantly affected. After having all of its apps removed by Facebook over the weekend preceding the WSJ’s first article, LOLapps appeared to be in the clear, having been reinstated after the article came out. But now it, appears to have been hit with a fresh penalty.

It and the other developers involved will have to spend the next six months without any viral channels — no invitations, notifications, or wall posts. Here’s the error message that users will see:

Without these channels, growing apps on Facebook is going to be extremely challenging. A core value proposition of the Facebook platform is that it allows applications to integrate with Facebook’s social graph, and that’s no longer possible for these developers. Here’s a list of the largest companies we found to be potentially affected by the punishments:

1. LOLapps 15,818,121
2. My Friend Web 13,679,736
3. Mappdev 10,447,878
4. My Top Fans 6,395,281

Taken together, those developers account for almost 50 million monthly active users. We also found a few smaller developers that have been affected, like Manakki, which has about two million MAU.

There’s one important caveat to the viral channel shutdowns: LOLapps appears to have had one app spared, its recently-released game Ravenwood Fair. We’re not certain why this app escaped suspension, when it appears that all other LOLapps games and apps have had their channels blocked (there are too many to test them all). But there are several possibilities.

Ravenwood was released after LOLapps had its apps suspended the first time around, so it may have never been part of the data sharing problems that got LOLapps in trouble in the first place. Facebook may also be accounting for LOLapps’ transition from developing apps to games, since game developers appear to be a more valued presence on the platform. And Facebook may also be loathe to be seen destroying a small developer with bright prospects — with Ravenwood able to spread, LOLapps has one app to work with over the next six months that isn’t heavily constrained.

For now, none of this has been confirmed by the companies themselves — LOLapps has declined to comment, and Facebook did the same when we spoke with them about the suspensions on Friday. Facebook did say that it is open to working with developers to bring back affected applications in its blog post last week, though we’re not sure if that means Facebook will allow all of these restrictions to be lifted sooner than the originally stated six month period or not.

Whatever the case, LOLapps’ approach to producing non-game apps, which it used to promote its games, appears to be at risk; CrowdStar still employs this strategy, however.  CrowdStar, Zynga and other large developers named in the WSJ’s articles don’t appear to have been affected by the suspensions.

Here’s another list, showing some of the large developers that Facebook has suspended from the platform this year:

1. Pencake 44,128,503
2. Topzy 15,820,529
3. Who is following you ? 13,831,118
4. Friend FAQ 13,497,001
5. AppSphere Inc. 7,699,443
6. Gifts to your friends 5,074,396
7. Moment Of Truth 3,671,181
8. BeatsGames 2,696,729

Out of the above list, only BeatsGames created games — and even it also had several small non-game apps, like Friends Interview 3.0.

Update: Several readers have noted that Ravenwood has also had its channels suspended; the app will have its privileges reinstated on November 10th, according to LOLapps. More here.