Facebook Moves to Curb Bad Applets

Posted by: Rob Hof on August 28, 2007

It’s no secret by now that the frenzy by software and Web service developers to promote their applications on Facebook got a little out of hand. As Mike Arrington at TechCrunch and others have noted, some apps developers got carried away and essentially spamming people with ads or misleading come-ons to add an application. (One of them, Slide’s My Questions, for instance, had me asking a question of my friends that I did not actually ask, in an apparent attempt at viral marketing.) All that’s not good for people who use Facebook, and therefore not good for Facebook itself. So recently, Facebook tooks some steps to curb this kind of activity, including not allowing developers to show you a different profile than the ones friends see and blocking misleading notifications.

Now, Facebook is readying further plans to cut that stuff out. On the Facebook developers blog, Dave Morin explains:

We’re working on some changes that we’re planning to roll out within the coming weeks that we wanted to be sure you know about beforehand.

Our goal has always been to develop an ecosystem where the applications that achieve the most growth and usage are the ones that are the highest quality and add the most utility to users’ lives. We want to build our tools to enable viral growth in the most natural manner and let you focus on building fun, useful applications. With the upcoming changes, we hope to shift the balance more in favor of good apps, which we think in the long term is good for everyone. Users will get better applications, and users will be able to put more trust into applications, thus spurring further adoption.

Among the new moves are limiting the number of application invitations one can send to friends, not allowing emails to be sent to people who have added applications, and providing people with information on which applications are actually getting used the most, not just added and then forgotten.

Will the changes be enough? Mike thinks some hands need slapping for the changes to be effective, since some applications such as My Questions and RockYou’s Super Wall benefited enormously from actions now verboten. It may be too late for that, but it’s clear that running a platform is not a hands-off activity. Facebook will have to keep a close eye on developers and others who try to exploit loopholes in the system to get our increasingly scarce attention.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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