Looking to Help Developers Grow, Facebook Tests New Bookmarks Feature

Facebook, in the eyes of some developers, has pruned its platform too hard. Traffic has been falling for many companies, large and small, following the removal of third-party notifications in March and a range of smaller recent changes.

But a feature showed up this weekend, as spotted by Eric von Coelln, that gives developers a new application access point. It is showing bookmarks for games and apps on the far upper right side of application canvas pages, meaning any time a user is on an app, they’ll have the option to easily navigate to other apps they already use.

Specifically, the new bookmark feature shows users their current number of Credits, an option to “Get [Buy] More,” a list of a few apps they use, and a button that says “More.” If they click on the “More” button, the feature will drop down, covering the ads and displaying their full list of bookmarks. Clicking on the links here will take the user to the Games or Apps Dashboards.

Bookmarks have been a key way for apps and users to find each other. Facebook had made them available via a pop-up in a bottom toolbar, until a redesign in February. Then it got rid of that feature, and moved app bookmarks to the left-hand navigation column on the home page. It added the Dashboards to compensate, displaying them pre-filtered views of games and other apps, respectively, but developers have generally reported limited results. The left-hand navigation column, meanwhile, has limited space and highlights web sites and Facebook own apps. Serious social gamers and other app users just don’t have enough space.

We asked Facebook for comment, and it tells us that this new bookmarks feature is part of a larger effort. “We’re working on a series of tests and updates to better position app developers for long-term growth and provide great ways for users to find and return to their favorite apps on Facebook.”

Facebook added some more details on the bookmarks change:

We recently began rolling out additional real estate for app bookmarks above the ad unit on the right side of all apps. This is still in testing but we plan on making it available for all users to make it easier for people to jump from app to app. In early tests, developers saw a noticeable increase in Page views from the more prominent bookmarks.

The feature shows a person’s Credits balance and bookmarked apps in plain view when that person is already interacting with an app or game. A link to the Games Dashboard appears for those in a game, while a link to the Applications Dashboard appears for those in all other applications. If a person does not have enough bookmarks set up, his or her recently used applications will be shown. Bookmarks will also continue to exist on the home page for quick engagement.

One final note. Facebook’s new use of bookmarks here is also not surprising. Unlike deprecated features such as notifications and unprompted wall postings, it requires that users care enough about apps to opt-in to using them. The change doesn’t just help app usage, it does not enable spam.

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