Facebook to Deliver Platform Roadmap Today – Big Changes on the Way for Social Games?

facebook platform developersFacebook is hosting a Developer Garage in Palo Alto this afternoon, this time called “Roadmap Edition.” Facebook says it will be giving developers a “sneak peak of the Facebook Platform roadmap,” and we’ll be there with all the details.

While we don’t know what changes Facebook will specifically announce, we have heard from multiple industry sources that the company has been contemplating changes to the Platform recently that could significantly alter the way applications integrate with Facebook’s “viral” communication channels – the notifications, requests, and feed stories that enable much application distribution and re-engagement today.

Earlier tests that we’ve seen in the wild have included new access points for Facebook’s communication channels on the top menu bar in one case, and a missing bottom menu bar in the other, but these are just small tests and aren’t necesarily indicative of any specific site-wide product changes. Others are hearing things that go along with what what we’ve seen from some of the test screenshots, and also mentions that Facebook has been encouraging developers to rely more on getting users’ email addresses directly, instead of relying on Facebook’s viral channels for user communication as developers have since the Platform launched.

new-notifications-test

Were Facebook to make significant changes to the Platform’s viral channel mechanics, it would be somewhat reminiscent of the spring of 2008, when Facebook substantially redesigned the profile page, removing application boxes, which were then one of the major Platform viral channels, from the profile almost entirely. While last year’s changes caused a big shift in the ways developers thought about designing for application virality (and brought big traffic declines to those developers most dependent on profile boxes), many developers adapted and have since thrived. In fact, 2009 has seen the rise of the Facebook Platform economy to its highest levels ever, primarily through the growth of virtual goods-based games and applications and the underlying payment ecosystem.

Obviously, many of the applications that could be most affected by the changes are social games. Many of the games that have become the most popular and profitable since the Platform redesign in March have been making heavy use of the real-time stream, and Facebook games in general rely heavily on notifications and requests for user-to-user communication. We’ll have all the details as the changes are announced later today.

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