The Current Facebook Developer Dilemma

There’s an increasingly complicated situation spreading through the Facebook platform. The best way of explaining it is by looking back over a year and a half ago when the platform first launched. As many remember, the early days of the platform was the wild west and pretty much anything went. Developers instantly had millions of users and Facebook wasn’t taking any action to stop their growth.

Within a short period of time, Facebook began cracking down. It started with limitations on invitations and then restrictions against applications that were incentivizing invites. As users’ profiles became cluttered with countless applications, Facebook decided that it was time to redesign the platform. Granted, the whole redesign was not just due to Facebook’s desire to avoid cluttered profiles but also as a way for the company to increase ad impressions on the thousands of applications.

Facebook implemented a number of restrictions to avoid “abuse” by developers and gave the impression that a new sheriff was in town. Many saw their applications decline in traffic following the new redesign but over the past few weeks there has been a resurgence in applications that have violated the terms of service and have used spammy techniques to rapidly attract a large user base.

This has put many large developers in an awkward predicament. Facebook has consistently regulated many of the large application developers that have built relationships with the company. Often times it can be small modifications that are requested. It makes it difficult for those that try to abide by Facebook’s terms of service when smaller developers can get hundreds of thousands of users within days.

Ultimately it’s forcing many large developers to reconsider whether or not they should return to their old aggressive ways. At the end of the day, many of the spam applications are getting banned but I would argue that Facebook’s desire to support applications which “add value” to the user’s experience hasn’t been accomplished.

One of the fastest growing applications today is called “Super Snowball Fight!” I previously wrote about how Snowball Wars was spamming users and was eventually shut down. Developers can continue to use the same spamming techniques time and time again, gain a ton of pageviews, get shut down, and repeat the process. It has created an interesting dilemma for developers who are now forced to reconsider whether or not they should adopt an overly aggressive strategy to acquire new users.

According to some developers I’ve spoken to, testing spam-like strategies is already under way by some large platform developers. Do you think Facebook should get aggressive on platform spammers or should developers get more aggressive to compete in this new environment?