As Mark Evans points out in a recent post, there is a Facebook application “gold rush” taking place right now. Everyone and their dog is scrambling to launch an app to capitalize on this
fad opportunity. Many are seeing astonishing growth - from zero to tens of thousands of users in a mere couple days. But is this truly sustainable? Even more importantly, is it really worth it? I don’t think so. But don’t tell that to Facebook or the application creators.
Anything that vaults to stratospheric popularity levels in a short period of time is bound to see a fall-out or backlash of some kind eventually. In this case, the novelty of apps will eventually wear off. Some may disagree, but I would wager that ’superpoking’ and ‘throwing food’ are only cool for so long. Frankly, I’m already tired of all these ridiculous app invites after only a couple months.
The promise of monetization or a sale is what is driving this boom. But let’s be honest here - how many will actually profit from a sale or achieve reasonable revenues? My guess is under 1%. In other words, Facebook is almost creating a false sense of hope for developers. Subsequently, facebook profits from additional PR, user growth, and developer evangelism.
To me, Facebook applications are no more than a marketing funnel to an outside web presence. If you plan on making the app the entire business, you are walking a dangerously fine line. Forever more, you will be at the mercy of Facebook. If they decide to change course, you could be screwed.
My intuition tells me that the introduction of the developer platform was simply a move by the company to create short terms success and fuel PR ahead of an IPO or potential sale. Let’s analyze this further:
- Facebook launches the developer platform.
- Developers experience exponential growth and boast about their success.
- The press takes notice; widespread PR ensues.
- More developers jump on the bandwagon.
- A positive feedback loop is created: success feeds PR, which fuels further applications. Repeat.
- Eventually, a bubble is created as the app market is saturated and over-crowded. The dilution leads to a fall-out.
In other words, I believe that the developer platform is a short term ’stunt’ to raise awareness and exposure for the company. Over the long term, I see the move as being more detrimental than beneficial. I, for one, am already starting to get disgruntled by the addition of clutter and useless knick-knacks. The Facebook crowd, for the most part, is an older group. Such silly applications should be left for the MySpace or hi5 crowd. They degrade the quality of the experience. A seeming endless amount of scrolling is now needed to browse most profile pages. Is this the Facebook that we all remember?
Note: I refuse to make any parallels to MySpace or Geocities just yet…