I often tell people at work that turning an application into a platform is a balancing act, not only do you have to please the developers on your platform BUT you also have to please the users of your application as well.

I recently joined the This has got to stop group on Facebook. If you don't use Facebook, the front page of the group is shown in the screenshot below.


I've seen a bunch of tech folks blog about being overwhelmed by Facebook app spam like Tim Bray in his post Facebook Rules and Doc Searls in Too much face(book) time. However I assumed that the average college or high school student who used the site didn't feel that way. Looks like I was wrong.

The folks at Facebook could fix this problem easily but it would eliminate a lot of the "viralness" that has been hyped about the platform. Personally, I think applications on the site have gotten to the point where the costs have begun to outweigh the benefits. The only way to tip the balance back is to rein them in otherwise it won't be long until the clean and minimal vs. cluttered and messy aesthetics stop working in their favor in comparisons with MySpace. When that happens there will be an opportunity for someone else to do the same thing to them.

On an unrelated note,  the MoveOn.org sponsored group about Facebook Beacon has 74,000 members which is less than half of the size of the This has got to stop group.  This is despite the fact that MoveOn.org has had national media attention focused on that topic. I guess it goes to show that just because a story gets a lot of hype in blogs and the press doesn't mean that it is the most important problem facing the people it actually affects.

Now playing: Jay-Z - Ignorant Shit


Sunday, December 9, 2007 11:25:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I thought I’d post a response to your comment on my blog (http://www.tomstechblog.com/post/2007/12/Does-this-have-to-stop.aspx) here since I’m new and you have no reason to really go back there (plus, as the newbie here, I could certainly use the link-love).
That said, if you don’t mean banning these applications at least from communicating I don’t see how else you expect Facebook to fix the problem. They’re asking permission now so the only thing left to do would be to restrict them in some way.
There might be an argument to the idea that these applications could somehow be detected and that a Facebook user could “opt out” of these types of applications but I don’t think that’s very realistic in that I don’t see any technical way to distinguish this type of program from any other type of Facebook program. All Facebook applications take text data in and then return text data to the user. What distinguishes this type of application is that it doesn’t do anything useful to that data,, it has no real business logic to it. But from Facebook’s perspective that type of application is no different from a more useful application because again its just text-in/text-out.
I suppose you could try a “developer opt-in” where developers identify themselves as this type of app but any developer would be a fool to identify themselves as an application that users could block because, as you said, it kills the Viralness of the platform. So that brings me back to my assumption which was that you wanted to see these applications banned from communicating with other users.
So I guess my question is, what did you mean when you said Facebook could fix the problem easily?
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