Facebook uses random sampling to determine app ratings and avoid manipulation

With its new App Center, Facebook ranks applications by star ratings, but unlike Apple and Android’s app platforms, the social network relies on random sampling to gather these ratings.

Currently there is no way for users to rate an app on demand. Instead, users are randomly prompted to provide star ratings through modules around the site. This unique approach discourages user or developer manipulation. Facebook product manager Matt Wyndowe tells us the company is considering options for allowing users to rate apps directly from an App Center page, but Facebook wants to do so in a way that maintains the integrity of its ratings.

Because high ratings can lead to better placement in the App Center, developers want to know how to get more positive ratings for their app. Although there is no particular link users can visit to rate a Facebook application, we’ll go over the different ways that users are currently able to rate apps.

Commonly, users who visit Facebook canvas apps are prompted to rate another recently used app from an area below their bookmarks. See example above. We have not seen users given the option to rate the app they currently have open.

Some users have seen ratings modules in the right-hand sidebar on various Facebook pages they visit. Sometimes when a user provides a rating, the module will refresh with another app to rate. Most of the time the module features one or two apps, but we’ve seen as many as six apps at a time here.

Occasionally, users will be prompted to rate an app after they decide to remove it from their accounts. Several years ago, Facebook provided this option to all users who removed an app, which could skew results negatively. Now, this seems to be done randomly so as to collect more accurate ratings.

Ratings are listed on an app’s App Center page and on hover cards in News Feed, but users cannot provide their own ratings through these features. As we mentioned, Facebook could bring the option to rate apps to the App Center soon, but it is likely the company will not allow users to rate an app unless they have added it already. Google Play and the Apple App Store also use this strategy to limit manipulation. Facebook will likely ban developers from incentivizing users to rate their apps positively, though this could be hard to police, as it is on iOS and Android.

We’d like to see Facebook keep its random sampling approach, and allow users to rate apps through modules that only sometimes appear in App Center. This seems to be a way to keep the platform fair for all developers and avoid issues of fraud that happened in the past when Facebook allowed ratings and reviews to be done directly from an app page at any time. Now that developers have more insights about the ratings they receive, including how ratings change over time and vary by demographic, they can try new things and track the results. Developers should also consider ways to get direct feedback from users through surveys or other in-app features so that they can provide a better experience for users and naturally lift their star ratings.