Facebook’s Disappearing Application Platform

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ith each refinement to the Facebook UI it seems their application platform is taking a back seat to the desire of chasing after millisecond status updates a la Twitter and with this latest round applications seem to have all but disappeared. When the platform first rolled out there was a period of rapid developer adoption largely due to the potential audience size an application could field in a short period of time, that viral affect that was so popularized. The excitement continued for quite some time though I think in some cases Facebook must have become envious as it seems others were perhaps having more commercial success on their platform than Facebook itself if not in real terms perhaps in relative terms.

In the beginning, applications played a prominent roll and “installing” new applications was perhaps all too easy. I’d refer to those as the “wild west” days with the ensuing gold rush period that was eventually killed off. Ever since then it seems Facebook as increasing clamped down user’s exposure to third party applications and in many cases made it difficult and costly to keep an FB application up and running successfully over time as the API continues to be a moving target.

With the latest round of UI changes I couldn’t find a link to Facebook’s own Developer’s application, which I have “installed” on my account allowing me to review the FB applications I’ve created. Eventually, I found a round-about path through the Settings|Application Settings menu though that seems quite counter intuitive. Clearly, the rules of engagement for applications have changed dramatically over the platform’s brief lifetime so much so I’d be interested in statistics regarding how the viral nature of Facebook applications has been altered since the early days though I suspect we’ll never know. I think if you were fortunate enough to get in early and earn a respectable size audience you’re probably doing just though I’d suspect that’s not nearly as repeatable as one might hope given the current situation.

Facebook has something unique with their platform and garnered a developer audience quickly though it seems bent on following in Apple’s footsteps by locking it down so tightly they’ll end up thwarting the majority of developer’s who’d write applications they wouldn’t have the time nor wherewithal to write. These days it’s almost looking like Facebook would have preferred $g(Facebook Connect) rather than their platform route as that’s certainly the direction their pushing. At this point, let’s just say I’m glad I’m not working for a company in the midst of developing a Facebook application hoping to reach my target audience.