The term ‘application’ is often used to refer to some sort of web-based software. Applications can do almost anything. Not all of them are based around growing animals, throwing sheep or engaging in wars with other mobs. Some are actually quite useful.
Building an application on the Facebook platform was initially attractive because the API gave developers easy access to news feeds. News feeds from friends you know offline give you valuable exposure for your application.
A Facebook Application developer builds an application and after testing they move it live for everyone to use. Once an application has a handful of users, Facebook approve it for the Application Directory. Applications could then pay Facebook to undergo an additional Verification Program. If approved as non-spammy and abiding by all Facebook Policy, the application would receive a huge boost in the amount of news feed displays.
News feeds help applications to find new users and remind existing users to come back. It’s like free advertising.
However, Facebook turned off the Verification Program on December 1st. Developers complained bitterly about the change. Some developers expanded their applications outside of Facebook. For others, the effects were so detrimental that some developers even gave up and closed their businesses.
Here’s a chart of traffic to one of our Facebook apps at Think!
The first arrow clearly shows the benefits of the boost in news feed displays that we received from Verification. Growth increased from 5-10 new users per day to 300-500 new users per day. The second arrow shows the point where Verification was turned off. Back we go to 10 new users per day.
The reason for axing verification is two-fold. Firstly, application developers like Zynga have been making millions of dollars on the platform and Facebook wants (and arguably deserves) a slice of the pie. If you put a stop to the free advertising through news feeds, developers might pay for advertising to attract and retain users. Secondly, we (the Facebook community) were largely becoming deterred by applications taking over our Walls. To this end, Facebook also made changes to applications’ access to notifications and to the Wall itself to make posts more relevant.
At Think!, we have spent the last few months trialling solutions to increase our exposure. We have made many improvements to our applications to make them more appealing to users and to encourage communication through new channels. Facebook’s changes have been motivation to provide even better products and we now offer a range of applications that help Fan Pages to offer something engaging to their fans.
In the end, everybody wins. Facebook protects its user experience by reducing news feeds from games like Farmville and Mafia Wars while also increasing revenue to support its platform. Users engage more with the site because there are more interesting things to see and we’ve become more useful to our clients.
Does anyone miss having sheep thrown at them?