Facebook Culls Third Party Apps

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Unpredictable Path for Third Party Apps on Facebook

Messaging app MessageMe is the latest victim of the unpredictable way Facebook changes how third-party apps can communicate with its users and solicit customers: Facebook recently cut off access to its “Find Friends” functionality. Last month, video-sharing app Viddy had its app traffic throttled.  Voice-messaging app Voxer was cut off from accessing Facebook’s friends data early in 2013; Russian search engine Yandex was blocked from crawling Facebook entirely; and business-networking service Branchout saw its automatic notifications to attract users curtailed. Game publisher Zynga found its viral notifications shut down and has since gone outside FB to develop its own gaming network. Twitter’s Vine was cut off almost as soon as it launched.

Facebook said these companies and others like them whose apps have been culled were taking advantage of its network without sharing any information in return, or were sending out too many intrusive alerts, or were not contributing good content. Others note that Facebook tends to cut off apps which compete with its own plans to monetize its member base.

Facebook Can Change the Rules at Whim

On September 21, 2012, Facebook made a major and unexpected update to its algorithm that determines which of a brand’s posts are shown in its fans’ feeds. Overnight, many brand pages lost 30-60% of their reach. In the face of a high volume of complaints from advertisers as well as brands with free pages (they contribute a lot of content too), Facebook has since taken action to correct some of this including, in March 2013, a redesigned feed interface. But the point is the mercurial way Facebook can change the rules of your game, from feeds to apps.

While Facebook can’t be faulted for improving its user experience — let’s face it, continuous notifications are irritating — brands should think twice about funding apps whose prospects depend largely on Facebook.

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