Facebook Apps

Creating Facebook applications is not a panacea, not an overtly quick route to developer riches, fame, and having 37,000 friends. No, the app has to actually do something useful first.

In May 2007, Facebook Inc. invited software developers to create free software programs that members of the social-networking site could use to entertain and inform each other.

A year later, it’s time to ask: What has worked and what hasn’t?

There’s plenty to pick from. So far, more than 250,000 developers have requested the Palo Alto, Calif., company’s tools for building such applications. And more than 24,000 programs have been created, allowing Facebook users to send each other virtual hugs, share movie picks and play games, among other things.

For some of those developers, the applications have become viable businesses. Companies drawing large numbers of users to the Facebook Web pages associated with their applications are able to sell advertising or even goods or services there. For others, the applications are helping to raise their profile and user ranks of existing operations.

But many more have tried and failed, unable to gain or keep a following. Creating catchy applications is becoming more challenging as the number of applications vying for users’ attention grows and their sophistication increases. Meanwhile, some early tactics used to gain wide reach are being eliminated by Facebook because their intrusiveness drew complaints.

“Entrepreneurs need to ask themselves, ‘What is the problem I’m trying to solve? What is the need I’m trying to address?’ ” says Ben Ling, director of platform marketing at Facebook. “The Facebook platform is not a magic platform and you can plug in anything and it will be successful. It doesn’t make something that’s not useful useful.”

The top 1% of applications accounted for two-thirds of all application activity in the nine months since Facebook introduced the platform, according to a study of Facebook applications published in March by O’Reilly Media Inc., a technology-focused publishing company in Sebastopol, Calif. And only 200 applications hosted more than 10,000 users a day. About 60% of applications failed to attract even 100 daily users.

[From Some Facebook Applications Thrive, Others Flop: WSJ]

The Facebook apps I have installed are ones that take content created elsewhere, and update my page without me having to logon to do anything. I log on every week or two, but my page changes all the time (using data from LastFM, Flickr, twitter, del.icio.us, Upcoming, FriendFeed, possibly others).

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