One of the biggest problems with the Facebook user experience today is the amount of spam from applications that are trying to leverage its social networks to "grow virally". For this reason, it is unsurprising to read the blog post from Paul Jeffries on the Facebook blog entitled Application Spam where he writes
We've been working on several improvements to prevent this and other abuses by applications. We'll continue to make changes, but wanted to share some of what's new:
- When you get a request from an application, you now have the ability to "Block Application" directly from the request. If you block an application, it will not be able to send you any more requests.
- A few weeks ago, we added the ability to "Clear All" requests from your requests page when you have a lot of requests and invitations that you haven't responded to yet.
- Your feedback now determines how many communications an application can send. When invitations and notifications are ignored, blocked, or marked as spam, Facebook reduces that application's ability to send more. Applications forcing their users to send spammy invitations can wind up with no invitations at all. The power is in your hands; block applications that are bothering you, and report spammy or abusive communications, and we'll restrict the application.
- We've explicitly told developers they cannot dead-end you in an "Invite your Friends" loop. If you are trapped by an application, look for a link to report that "This application is forcing me to invite friends". Your reports will help us stop this behavior.
- We've added an option to the Edit Applications page that allows you to opt-out of emails sent from applications you've already added. When you add a new application, you can uncheck this option right away.
A lot of these are fairly obvious restrictions that put users back in control of their experience. I'm quite surprised that it took so long to add a "Block Application" feature. I can understand that Facebook didn't want to piss off developers on their platform but app spam has become a huge negative aspect of using Facebook. About two months ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Facebook: Placing Needs of Developers Over Needs of Users where I pointed out the Facebook group This has got to stop (POINTLESS FACEBOOK APPLICATIONS ARE RUINING FACEBOOK). At the time of posting that entry, the group had 167,186 members.
This morning, the group has 480,176 members. That's almost half a million people who have indicated that app spam on the site is something they despise. It is amazing that Facebook has let this problem fester for so long given how important keeping their user base engaged and happy with the site is to their bottom line.
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