Top Facebook Application Developer Slide Building Virtual Goods Business, Payment Platform

Founded by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin in 2005, Slide has become synonymous with the explosion of social network applications in recent years. Its properties and widgets, including popular applications SuperPoke, Top Friends, FunSpace, and SuperPoke Pets, reach over 155 million people per month on popular social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Orkut, Friendster, and Tagged. And with around 24 million monthly active users on Facebook, Slide is (and always has been) one of the largest application developers on the Facebook Platform.

However, unlike other top app developers, Slide hasn’t been rolling out many new applications over the last year. Instead, it’s been honing and optimizing its core network of properties, and spending a lot of time and energy tuning its monetization efforts.

On the advertising side, Slide has built a sales team with several staff in New York and San Francisco that has been driving the company’s premium integrations like branded SuperPokes or viral FunSpace videos. However, the company has also quietly been building its direct to consumer business, selling virtual currency and subscriptions that give users access to premium features. For example, each bar of Slide Gold costs USD $0.10 (the same exchange rate as Facebook Credits), and unlimited premium SuperPokes can be purchased for a USD $4.99 monthly subscription fee.

Just how important has Slide’s virtual goods business become? As of today, a Slide spokesperson tells us its direct-to-consumer virtual currency sales and subscriptions account for 50% of the company’s overall revenues.

Furthermore, given the increasing importance of virtual goods sales to the company – and that Levchin, CFO Kevin Freedman, and VP Strategy and Business Development Keith Rabois all share a history at PayPal – we’ve been hearing increasing rumors lately that Slide has plans to bring more parts of the payments layer in house in order to be able to exert greater control over the payment user experience. Today, Slide confirms that that is indeed the case.

“We believe it’s important to improve the system for paying for virtual goods. We are working on innovating that technology to make the experience easier for our consumers,” Lily Lin, Slide’s Director of Communications, tells Inside Facebook.

Whether or not Slide will make its payment infrastructure available to other developers remains to be seen. Slide’s Lin, however, says that that is “not the plan.”

“The focus is just for our own users,” she says.

For a company like Slide, which has 150 million users around the world yet connects with many of them through social network platform partners, taking greater control over the payments infrastructure, which is of increasing strategic importance to the company as it grows its direct to consumer sales, makes a lot of sense. Unlike smaller developers, it has the resources and experience to potentially establish direct relationships with payment processing companies instead of working with social application payment service providers like Social Gold, Spare Change, Zong, or Boku – or the social networks themselves. (Facebook recently started testing a payments program for developers, and MySpace has said it plans to do the same later this year.)

Overall, we think these are all smart moves by the company. Virtual goods sales are booming on the Facebook Platform, and Slide is in a unique position to capitalize on both the advertising and e-commerce opportunities inside Facebook. We’ll continue to track the company as things progress on both fronts throughout the year.

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