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Facebook autobot going berserker (facebook.net)
250 points by ZeroC00l on June 24, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 153 comments

Hey guys, I am a Facebook engineer working on this.

We've been getting a lot of user feedback recently, spiking significantly over the past week, on the amount of application spam people are seeing in their feeds and on their walls. We turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account. This resulted in a number of applications with high negative user feedback being disabled or having certain features disabled. In particular, many applications were disabled which posted to the walls of other users and had very high mark-as-spam numbers.

My apologies for the suddenness of the action. The numbers were high enough to cause a real loss of trust in applications, which can impact the entire platform. Where we have failed is not providing enough feedback about negative engagement metrics to developers before needing to take this action. This is something we are working hard to fix with the new Application Insights that will be launching over the next few weeks - you will have detailed information about both positive and negative engagement of the content your application generates.

If you think you have been disabled in error, you should have received an email to your application's contact email address with a link to appeal. Just in case, the appeal link is https://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=dev_disa... . Note that no content is deleted when an application is disabled. If an application is re-enabled, all the content posted by the application will once again be visible.


A couple things.

1. I think I speak for everyone on HN when I say this is a really valuable communication to all of us who have worked with Facebook.

2. When a user shares content through an application, you should not penalize the application itself when someone hides that content. I am almost positive this is a large reason why these bans are happening. It is a ridiculous measure of spamminess.

3. You say you are trying to make the platform a better place for users by preventing spammy content from appearing in their feeds. This in itself is fine. But Facebook's actions are making feeds worse, not better. The actions of a few should not impact the experience of many.

PS. Putting up the link to the appeals process is a really strange way to help anyone out. As far as I recall, when my app was banned a couple of months ago, that form wouldn't even work for me.

In other words, just step up and give the affected devs your email address so that you can actually give them a real response. Putting their complaints / concern into what is potentially a block hole inbox isn't very calming.

When a user shares content through an application, you should not penalize the application itself when someone hides that content. I am almost positive this is a large reason why these bans are happening. It is a ridiculous measure of spamminess.

The problem, I imagine, is that many games provide incentives for posting stuff on other people's walls. That's clearly spam, but also technically initiated by the user.

...And many apps don't make it 100% clear that wall spam is going to be the consequence of your choice, or that not sending spam is an option.

Send spam: "Click big happy green button to share!"

Don't spam: "Click tiny, scary 'X', which is followed by deliberately confusing confirmation, 'Are you sure you don't want to continue?".

They just keep asking you over and over; eventually you either mis-click or give in.

Technically incentives are not allowed, but most apps resort to emotional tricks. Best applied psychology experiment ever.

Wait until you deactivate your facebook account.

Then you get some real guilting. Your friends will miss you. Why don't you send some messages now to let them know you're leaving. Awful.

...this is a really valuable communication...

not so sure about that, it's simply a copy/paste of his comment on the forum. I wouldn't hang about waiting for a reply

I'm pretty sure you'd solve #2 if you let users completely block apps from their wall. I block every app-related post I can. I use facebook to see what my friends say, not to see what apps they're using.

>let users completely block apps from their wall

/ Or perhaps have an option to "block apps in this category". So if I'm clicking on the x for a game's posting trying to entice me in it could offer me the choice to block that game or to block all games.

Can you elaborate on why penalizing an application when someone hides content is a ridiculous measure of spamminess? It seems like a perfectly fine measure to me, noting that nothing about hiding content based on the percentage of users that hide it implies that it's actually the actions of a few impacting the experience of many.

" The numbers were high enough to cause a real loss of trust in applications, which can impact the entire platform. Where we have failed is not providing enough feedback about negative engagement metrics to developers before needing to take this action. This is something we are working hard to fix with the new Application Insights that will be launching over the next few weeks - you will have detailed information about both positive and negative engagement of the content your application generates."

How this sounds to me: FBlost 7 mil U.S. users May 2011, and one of the biggest exit survey points was wall spam. Some team somewhere was ordered to implement a solution as soon as possible and worry about the fallout from screwing over developers later.

I can't imagine FB will ever get around to reviewing every appeal in a comprehensive manner. But, just in case you're totally delusional, in three weeks or so they'll roll out some new stuff that won't impact in any way the fact they chopped developers' heads off in spite of complying with guidelines. Then, they'll continue going back to being uncommunicative.

You couldn't have taken a few hours to put together a notification? You obviously have the ability to pull together data on all apps and comprehensively shut them off for passing some numeric ratio. Couldn't you have taken, I don't know, 20 minutes and cobble together an email explaining what you'd be doing last night so the devs could at least notify their users?

By the way, this is Hacker News. I'm pretty sure your target audience here could pretty much infer exactly what happened based on anecdotes from the thread and past Facebook maneuvers. The technical explanation could've waited for the final paragraph. The first words into your response ought to have been a big, bold-text "We totally failed at communication and hurt a lot of people because of it. Here are the steps we're undertaking in the future:"

Telling people to go fill out the appeal form is just... I don't know. I don't have anything else to say that is suitable for HN. Bad form, Eugene.


> We turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account.


> My apologies for the suddenness of the action. The numbers were high enough to cause a real loss of trust in applications, which can impact the entire platform.

—remind me of this talk, well worth reading:


It's openly biased toward the developer who feels wronged, but the point that should get across is: if your business depends facebook to provide you with a userbase, then you bought into a game where you have no bargaining power.

I don't mean to troll facebook or developers using its platform when I say this, but it's high time everyone in the social app scene started treating platform lock-in as a huge threat, and adjust their strategies accordingly.

That's right, because of

a) the effective monopoly of facebook in the space,

b) of the secretive facebook-zynga deal and

c) of the sheer size of the developer community who depend on the platform financially and the investments on it

In the current size of facebook (3/4 of a billion), the excuse "but it's a free platform" is not exactly valid. Unfortunately, due to lack of a common standard (opensocial failed) and organization on the part of developers, its imposible to set a strategy. App developers have no protection against the provider.

So is possible now to attack a competitor's app by flagging it as spam from multiple accounts/IPs?

Be careful that you're not banning legitimate apps because a few users really hated them and went out of their way to get them taken down. I remember this being an issue recently with DMCA takedowns of innocent FB users.

EDIT: Here's a link to the ars technica DMCA article: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/04/facebook-tak... Maybe I'm too cynical, but I could easily see some unscrupulous developer figuring out how to spam negative feedback against their competition on FaceBook to get them auto-banned.

Could you provide some assurance that that appeal form will actually lead to some fruitful response? From the posts on your forums, it's quite clear that every single "appeal" thus far through the provided mechanism has been automatically rejected as final by a non-human process without any valid explanation.

Just want to say that this is a good response, and I'm happy to see the communication here along with acknowledging that you guys failed to communicate this enough ahead of time. I hope that HN is receptive to this communication, so we can continue to see more of this.

No it's not a good response. Shoot first, ask questions later? They should have a) let the developers know what they need to fix the apps and b) stop these apps from posting to the wall (not ban the apps altogether)

My reading of the response is that they understood they made a mistake, and that was the good part, admitting the mistake, but I suppose it is open to interpretation.

As a FB user,I'd like to say that I turn off all applications that appear on my feed- no exceptions. This does not reflect on the spamminess or otherwise of individual applications. It just means that I only use FB to interact with other people. So you should not draw any conclusions about the character of applications from the fact that I removed them from my feed. I'm sure a lot of other users act in a similar manner.

Reading the forums, it seems many have already had their appeal rejected. Will Facebook restore those apps?

Are you talking about "Hide", "Report as Spam", or both? Because I hide stuff all the time.

Does it make a difference if a user had to explicitly select me in order to send me the message? Does that make it the user's fault and not the app - i.e. does asking consent of the sender give an app immunity?

Hides count against the app. More comments count in favor of the app. And you don't have to be a user of an app to review it or influence whether it gets banned.

Source? I don't disbelieve you, I'd just like to read this in black-and-white myself for maximum astonishment.

I wonder, did you read about this on hacker news or some other blog first? Are you guys monitoring the forum/bugzilla/support requests, or you just wait until it gets to the HN frontpage?

You're supposed to comment out banApp(); when you first push these sorts of things, duh!

Glad you responded - some reassurance that the affected apps/data are not (yet) lost/wiped out might help those wrongly impacted by this.

"Guys, the moderators are volunteers, and we have no power over any of Facebook's software (like the ban-bot) or their policies. We just delete spam on the forums, mostly. We do have a way of raising issues to the FB employees, and we have done so. Trouble is, they've been ignoring us (and everyone on the forums too) for weeks or months."

wow, that's pretty sad. and i thought they were only ignoring my problems.

I can confirm this. Matt Trainer used to be an official presence on forums (developer liaison) but moved to a different part of the company. Since then no one has really stepped up to fill in his shoes.

To be honest though, the forums have never been a way to get in contact with Facebook Staff. The best recourse (which is actually pretty quick these days) is to file a bug report and have developers pile on support and votes. For example, I filed a single bug report last night and had it looked at by a Staff member and priority assigned in less than 12 hours.

I once had cause to attempt to seek help from Facebook on an issue we were having building something for senior Congressional leadership. They blew us off when we had leader's aides calling and asking for help. It boggles my mind how hostile FB is to people working with their platform.

The general consensus is that phone calls are for super urgent problems (server is down!) and/or paid phone support. Did your contract include paid phone support? I wonder how you would have been treated had you sent emails.

I believe that at one point they had leadership staff members literally going over to the office of FB's guy on the hill. Unfortunately I have no idea about the contracts, but given the cast of characters involved, I'd have thought it wouldn't have made a difference.

It was among the most appalling acts of customer service I've seen from a vendor in my career. They literally did not return our calls or emails and the project ended up cancelled.

Edit: this was ~13 months ago.

What disappoints me, really, is the attitude that's made its way over from other fields into tech: once you're at a certain scale, it is acceptable to provide no customer service whatsoever, even to paying customers.

Google and Paypal were the ones who started it in our industry, of course, but it certainly seems to be spreading.

We've had similar problems. We have a variety of apps running stuff like posting scores to profiles. Recently we've had some apps disabled by what looks like automated bots. We asked for an explanation every time and only got a few vague template answers and a link to the policies. A colleague of mine got banned from the developer app. He can't create new apps anymore and can't reach a Facebook employee to correct it.

Facebook loves being invisible.

I do get annoyed at some of the span that hits my feed, but really, it's facebook. If apps don't post, why would you put them on facebook?

It looks like facebook wants to get out of the whole platform game, and simple be an OpenID provider, message platform, and photo host.

They really do have an issue with communication. Unless you happen to know someone that works at facebook, you're pretty much left in the dark.

This is worrying. At least apps reject by Apple get an opportunity to reply & converse.

You're in the post-first-year quiet rejections, months between e-mail replies, and horrible uncertainties of iOS development period. Perhaps Facebook will get there one day too? :-)

Those are the results of Operation Developer Love: http://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/417/ . Imagine what would happen without love ...

There's a post from yesterday which is more recent about the same operation: http://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/516/

  30 bugs were reproducible and accepted (after duplicates removed)
  4 bugs were fixed (4 previously reported bugs)

Unfortunately, our application was also a victim of this widespread banning. We built up a user base of over 2 millions users. As of yesterday, they're all receiving a 404 error when attempting to visit our application. And we have no way of reaching them.

Attempting to appeal to Facebook results in a generic email response instructing us to begin the application anew.

Worst of all, deleting our application also deleted the photos our users took. We had a video chat application that allowed users to take pictures together with their friends. Over 1 million photo memories deleted by Facebook. It's just a sad situation overall.

Wow, that is truly appalling. Hopefully they can restore all the pictures, I doubt any piece of data is every TRULY deleted from Facebook.

It's really a shame that a big company like this can just stomp all over the little guys, and we are absolutely powerless to them.

I'm sorry that Facebook fucked you over like that - but this is also an excellent reminder to be mindful of backups. Throwing something on facebook or Flickr doesn't count.

Just to clarify, these photos were uploaded directly into the user's own Facebook albums. They viewed the photos outside of the scope of our application, along with all their other Facebook photos. It was these photos that were deleted when our application was banned.

Even if we had backups, it wouldn't mean much. Facebook revoked our OAuth access. So we're unable to re-upload the photos for our users.

Oh, I didn't mean from your end - I meant that I, as a Facebook user, shouldn't assume my photos are safe just because they're in an FB album.

And, really? They deleted photos that the users uploaded themselves? Or did they go through your app to do so?

Either way, I'd be pissed. And they wouldn't care. :/

This is exactly why I'm contributing to the Locker Project. I personally have data on tribe.net I'm concerned about losing.

I could write a scraper myself, but I know a ton of people who feel the same way. These are people who aren't programmers but would personal copies of the digital snowflakes they've created on that site. It's far more useful to build a Locker connector that anyone can use to sync their contacts, messages, photos, etc.

We hope to help solve at least the backup component of this at: http://lockerproject.org/. This just helps reinforce, in our eyes, that we need to push hard to get this in front of people as soon as possible.

This is a big reminder to all devs, make facebook an optional part of your application and that it can stand alone by itself if facebook gets revoked. Even if you make it seamless don't make it depend on facebook internally, make it that you can flip a switch and send an announcement email/sms to all of your users that provide it. I was surprised how many facebook apps start completely dependent like this and stay like that for years.

Have you considered taking legal action against Facebook? They've done some pretty terrible things, but that's truly horrible (and probably illegal). They just flipped the switch and deleted everything?

Wow, that sucks. Condolences, Anthony...

I appreciate it. But it's sad to say that many others have lost way more than we have. Here's one example: http://forum.developers.facebook.net/viewtopic.php?id=103428

yah Grand Poker seems kaput on FB.

It's their dreaded friday push which usually breaks things until monday. Dont expect reinstatement until then.

Is this really something that happens regularly, to the point where you have a name for it? I've had several issues with the facebook platform in the past, but if breakage is really this common why aren't they doing anything about it? (And why not do code releases on Monday at the very least?)

It's not a specific day, it's all days, but most of the bugs i remember were not fixed on weekends. Here's a bug i was watching:

http://bugs.developers.facebook.net/show_bug.cgi?id=16197 aka http://bugs.developers.facebook.net/show_bug.cgi?id=16191

This was a severe bug despite its misleading title, our users got only blank pages in IE and links did not work . It was pushed on a Thursday , then fixed some time by Monday, then next wednesday it was broken again, and a fix came a week later. [http://www.facebook.com/eggbuddies/posts/10150171378998545] Shit happens a lot more often than one would expect in facebook.

For a better treatise, read this developer's lament:


P.s. I laughed hard when i saw this video: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2594083

The "dreaded friday push"? That's weird, since this happened "as of yesterday".

(Every Thursday feels like a week?)

We are from Playality, developer from Grand Poker. As many of you may know, our application was disabled this morning for no apparent reason given. The company spend huge amount of marketing dollars on adverts and product development . Furthermore, many of our paid customers demand for refunds or legal action. Grand Poker is our company main source of revenue, and it is also funding other projects on facebook. This incident pretty much killed off the company.

Also, using user's feedback may not be an accurate measurement to the quality of the application. There are many methods or bot script that can simulate users to mass complain the application. This is a very common strategy uses by competitors.

all in all, we are still relatively new to for facebook, It may be possible that we did somehow crossed the line in feeds or wallposting, but.is it worth killing off a small start-up because of this?

I know there are plenty of Facebook people reading HN, so I can't help but wonder why complaints about FB are never addressed here when they come up, especially when they're of this nature (this particular problem seems like a glitch in code, not something that would require a massive business effort to fix). The instant someone makes a complaint about some aspect of Google's search algorithm, Matt Cutts appears out of the wild and addresses the situation; I've seen many other Googlers comment on various issues, too, letting us know that they've escalated issues as appropriate, or even just that they're aware of problems but can't do anything about it.

What's up with the silence from the FBers in the crowd? Not allowed to say anything? Don't know who to forward the issue to? Just don't care?

How come no witches ever show up to our witchhunt?

The vast majority of fb employees wouldn't know anything about this. They couldn't say anything except something w/o any knowledge and cause more problems.

Moreover, the vast majority of Facebook employees aren't going to be /empowered/ to say anything about this. I sure as hell am never going to make any statements on behalf of any company I work for.

That's a very fair point - HN is vastly more hostile to Facebook than it is to Google, so it makes more sense that Googlers would pop in to calm things down.

I'm sure the hostility has nothing to do with the lack of response, the screw-ups, or the handling of the situation in general ...

But, I probably shouldn't even be in this thread, because I think that building a huge user base that relies on someone else's closed & fickle platform is a hilarious thing to do.

I truly believe its down to a deep misstrust of facebook and Zuckerberg which started from day 0 of facebook.

I'm stunned that a site full of developers might be hostile to a site that has facebook's track record with developers. Stunned.

I'm a Facebooker, just not on the API team. If you think that silence is bad, you should hear about the ordeal I had with my HR recruiter. Talk about silence....whew!

So... mind sharing? Sounds interesting and I'm sure people could learn something from it. Anonymous blog post if you must.

Pretty much the same as the Google nightmares you hear about. I've come to the conclusion that the average tech HR rep is just not competent. It's a level of ineptitude far below what an average programmer (for example) would be at. Then again, I guess nobody ever dreams of being an HR rep as a kid...

I always try to avoid publicly discuss any company I have worked for, not just Facebook. Mainly because my opinions are my own, and even with disclaimers I feel they reflect on my employer.

I work at Facebook, but am not part of the platform (or platform integrity) team. In general, since we have so few engineers (in the hundreds), we have to resort to technological means of solving problems like spam and bad apps. I can't speak for these specific cases, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a nonzero false-positive rate for spam/platform abuse detection, but it's the tradeoff that they are willing to make in order to catch most of the bad cases out there.

You think it's hard to contact Google if your Adsense account got shut down, or Ebay if your Paypal account got disabled. And that's even with thousands of people in Adsense; imagine what Facebook's sub-100 platform engineers can do with millions of platform developers.

I'm just speaking out of my ass, but while I think it's unfortunate that there are false-positives, it's a necessary tradeoff for a small company like Facebook with very few engineers.

A few months ago, Facebook banned adsense from apps, on the premise that it's not "safe enough" (while at the same time allowing ad networks with viruses). No matter how many attempts have been made to get facebook's response, not a sound:


It's safe to say that facebook is actively trying to push developers away. They have a special relationship with zynga, and that's their cash cow.

Really starting to hate Facebook more than I already do. As someone below pointed out, their API is going to shit, and they're starting to become more strict with their TOS. I know 5 friends who have had their Facebook accounts forcibly closed or suspended, or put through this ridiculous "roadblock" system that requires them to pick out 10 pictures from their friends' albums. Regarding apps: someone notified me that their app had been suspended because of "negative reactions" by users; only 10 people used the app, and it got one one-star review. Lovely.

I did like Facebook at one point: two or three years ago. Now it's just getting ridiculous.

Oh my god, half of my pictures aren't me at all...they're all just photos of things I make..

The roadblock system? Yeah, it's really flawed. I got roadblocked for logging on to my account from a Swedish IP (through a VPN; I live in the UK). It took me something like 10 tries to get through because I don't obsessively study my friends' photos like Facebook expects me to.

I went through that. The best part is that you have to know what the kids of your former high school classmates look like to pass. Given that I haven't seen most of them in 15 years, I have no idea what their kids look like. It was utterly aggravating.

to be fair they do this as a security measure, not to piss you off

How about I chainlock your front door because someone thought he saw a burgler in the neighbourhood. I have the key and am always available down to block. Not to piss you off, just as a security measure.

I know, but it's rubbish and they do piss users off. It's like a bank obstructing the entrance until you give them the amount of 10 previous deposits in your account. There's got to be a better way.

Or the TSA's base argument for their actions. At some point the friction from this type of stuff leaves a oppurtunity for the next guy.

What does this have to do with anything? Forcing users to change their passwords every 15 days to a 15 to 30 character password composed of no dictionary words, mixed upper- and lower-case letters, special symbols (except '^' and '$') and at least four numbers that do not appear in their SSN or birth date is a security measure too. Doesn't mean it's sensible or even reliable security.

Cue the conspiracy theorists, all the banned apps are photo related.


You are confusing the term 'conspiracy' with 'monetizing our platform' :-)

I'm not a developer but I'm appalled at this.

No human review of banned apps with millions of users. Moderators who volunteer to build the brand of FB are simply ignored.

The problem is that even if your apps are reinstated, the damage may have already been done.

Sorry guys...

This is all because of Google.

No, really. Google decided they could scale better if they used computers to do customer service, or just didn't have customer service. In exchange, they didn't charge anything for a lot of their services and told people 'deal with it.'

This worked well for Google! Facebook is staffed extremely lightly given their reach; stuff like this is just going to keep happening. I have no idea if the app developer deserved it, but these 'free to play' broad-reach companies CAN'T provide the service this app developer feels he/she needs, they wouldn't scale properly if they did.

these 'free to play' broad-reach companies CAN'T provide the service this app developer feels he/she needs, they wouldn't scale properly if they did.

Bollocks. I realize there's probably a lot of app spam, and of course you want to deal with a lot of that in an automated manner, but we're talking about apps that have built up millions of users here, it is in no way unreasonable to expect at least one lowly paid human to look into these cases before shutting them down. A single person could probably clear a hundred of these cases in a day, especially if the automated system gave them info on why it thinks the app should be banned - if it says there are too many negative reviews, that's real simple to check, if it catches a TOS violation, that's also real simple.

Here, it looks a lot like someone (maybe accidentally?) turned the sensitivity threshold too high on the ban-bot and never bothered to check if it was working right because it's not public facing enough.

As far as the Google comparison, to me that's rather unfair, because in the case of Google's app store, they don't tend to go around auto-banning large numbers of popular applications. So whatever algorithms they're using are doing a pretty good job, as opposed to Facebook's, which are apparently flailing like crazy.

Facebook has a culture of introducing live testing according to some developer statements so it's slightly surprising that this happened.

Google seems to test their systems well, except for UI changes though.

This whole idea makes doing business with either company difficult and very risky IMO. I have used Google Adwords for years and got a permanent ban one day out of the blue - no emails, nothing. I finally got in contact with an AdWords rep that helped me get back up but the whole process took nearly a month. Imagine if AdWords accounted for the majority of my sales?

Another case: SF-Based Yardsellr uses Facebook as the only authentication platform and not only requires all users to use Facebook in order to use their application, it is also very tightly integrated into Facebook Pages and other areas. If Facebook auto-bans their application their entire company shuts down until it's resolved. Imagine the losses.

I've been very concerned with businesses basing their livelihood on top of existing platforms like Facebook or market places like AdWords. It's easy to overlook how quickly your company or application can be banned - especially now that the bots are coming out to play.

This isn't to say that removing the bots solves the problem. The real problem lies in the lack of control you have over your business processes when you build something on top of existing platforms. However, this certainly exacerbates the issue and makes it all the more volatile.

Same thing happened to my Adwords account, with this nice message: http://www.devside.net/images/adwords-account-suspended.png

Except that I've never used it but a few times, and never violated the terms.

The rep refused to tell me what was violated and said this matter was closed.

How did you get them to unban your account?

I had signed up for a separate account in order to get access to their API (you have to have an MCC account to use the API which requires you to create a new account - ridiculous IMO). They make outbound calls to new accounts to assist in setting up campaigns so when that happened I explained the situation and he played mediator to get it back up. Normally I wouldn't suggest breaking their ToS by making multiple accounts but it's likely the only way to get them on the phone.

I'm fairly certain that Google wasn't the first firm to think about, or employ, automation. They may have taken it to an extreme, but even so, its also ridiculous to call what is a facebook problem Google's fault. Google may have set an example, but the FB execs decided they'd not have any customer support.

Anyway, you're mixing up first agents. Google didn't put a gun to FB's head, as the old adage goes.

If they can't provide the service this app developer - whose app was used by over a million people - then why are they fucking providing an opportunity to create apps anyway?

Facebook's API has become increasingly unstable. They recently dropped millions of oauth tokens for no apparent reason. See here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2661850

Thast why i would never rely on closed platform.

I will never waste my resource in build apps that solely rely on closed commercial entities like facebook, apple. If they choose to ban/block/delete you then all of your hard-work is gone in a second and will leave your users unhappy.

and this can happen to any of us

Especially if your app was offering something that Facebook plans to launch itself if a few days. Basically you've been doing marketing research for them. When you're not longer needed, they kick you out.

Is your site just future feature of Google? They provide us with 80% of our traffic and have launched features that directly compete with us.

It doesn't only happen on "closed" platforms.

True, It can happen on any platform, but at least you will get time to improve your app + add new features + fight with biggies while they are trying to copy from you.

On facebook and Apple they will just kill your app in a day.

Google could drop you from results, but yeah I get your point.

but you can still get people to your site through any means (not just Google). If you build a Facebook or Twitter app, and either of those companies compete with you, change their apis, ban you, your company is pretty much finished.

This is why I don't waste any time writing those kind of apps.

This seems to me to be indicative of a problem with the Facebook apps platform. They are using significant resources to try to combat spam, but the spam is posted through the mechanisms provided by the platform.

What I'm suggesting is that the Facebook apps platform is fundamentally making it easy to post spam so they have to fight it afterward.

Would a better approach be to shore up the platform so that apps are simply unable to generate spam? For example, currently a user can only Allow or Disallow an app. They cannot Allow or Disallow certain permissions. I should be able to use an app while denying it the possibility to post to my wall or my friends walls.

It seems like it's the wrong approach to try to stop the spam by banning apps rather than fundamentally changing the way apps can access person sites and information and make generating spam incredibly difficult.

If they every put hard API limits on how apps can post they would be cutting Zynga off at the knees. On the day that happens I'll be at the snowball fight in Hades!

Yep, that's always been the problem as far as i can remember. The same thing happened with facebook requests, notifications, profile boxes. If something can be spammed, it will be spammed. However your solution means that apps will have 0 exposure, as the stream is the last channel that facebook has left open. A better solution would be to bring back notifications, which are less intrusive and feel temporary. They might reinstate the quotas they used to have on the number of notifications per app per day they had based on spam feedback.

Always get your users' emails when they sign up. Facebook even has the email extended persmission to streamline it. That way you aren't 100% reliant on facebook to keep in touch with your users! You never know what they are gonna do.

> Don´t know what to do. I am desperate. This app is my company´s single product. The business impact is huge. No warnings. No specifics.


Now imagine Google dropping you from the index for whatever reason.

How many of us here would be wiped out?

A business that's dependant on a single channel or platform for more than 20% of its revenue/profit is not a real business as much as it is a sugardaddy's dependent?

Being your own bitch is better than someone else.

Not really sure where you're going with that.

A) Standard employee B) Self-employed but at complete mercy of a company (facebook) which does not know you even exist, who's everyday change of mood could wipe you out

Does not really sound like much was gained going from A to B.

With A you're simply lost (in life). With B you're blind.

Yes, both A and B is still consider as someone's else b*tch

Ideally, the best option is to find your own niche without relying "too much" on other's platform.

problem is that facebook doesn't really have too much of an incentive to care about these developers. they are not like apple, whose products include third party apps as part of the core value proposition. when steve jobs sells you an iphone, one big reason you buy it is because it has thousands of great apps. people don't sign up for facebook because of farmville, farmville uses facebook because people have already signed up for facebook.

thus, when apple's developers get screwed and there's no app ecosystem, there is the potential for decreased sales. when facebook apps disappear, i doubt there are a lot of people leaving facebook.

I think they would be missing out on a huge opportunity in not creating the best app ecosystem possible. Sure there are huge network effects now but eventually something will popup as a viable alternative with a much better app system which will drain a large amount of developers that otherwise would have been working on the Facebook platform.

They have an incentive: FB credits generates significant revenue to them already, plus games are a contributing factor to user retention. It may become more significant to user retention by filling the void now that social activity has peaked and everyone has caught up with their highschool friends.

Don't forget ad revenue. Facebook developers spend enormous sums on Facebook ads. Probably bigger than Credits, at least until next month.

oh and also - games/apps drive tons of pageviews for FB.

“Operation Developer Love” is what Facebook calls their weekly report on the state of bugs in their developer/app platform.

Looks like if there was really developer love, they wouldn’t need to market their love of developers.

Our primary app got shut down for "spamminess" on 6/20/11 (one week ago). We had 4M users. We've appealed. No response. A lot of users contact us plaintively hoping the app will come back. Sigh. Another small tech business will go kaput (ours) and half a million bucks will go down the tubes.

This is obviously just another similar data point on this thread, but what I want to add is to the discussion is this idea: why not create an completely OSS facebook? If a bitcoin can exist (and hell, a Linux), why not a decentralized open-source facebook? The core functionality is not that complex, IMHO. Well, Linux is complex and it took decades to perfect... but the need for it was pretty clear and it's proved itself. But Facebook, OTOH, is not a complex operating system or even a super-complex search engine (ala Google). It's simply a network of interconnected user accounts with certain assets assigned to each account (history, preferences, content, etc), and info feeds (transient) delivered to those accounts via various formats.

If such a project were OSS, people would design their own feed sorting algo's, their own notification systems, and most of all their own "spam" filtering systems, as plugins, all of which could mean nobody needs to "go dark" to satisfy the whims of one corporate entity.

Hmm, a simple google search found Project Diaspora https://joindiaspora.com/ which aims to do what I just wrote. Wonder how close they really are...

It's hard for me to have sympathy when people choose to develop for Facebook instead of for the Internet. When you are contributing to the problem, you have to accept a certain level of potential downside and lack of control. There's a massive internet out there. You know, everything that is not facebook.com and you can do pretty much everything on it, but without being subjected to the rules and whims of anyone else.

Reminds me of Google Adwords and Adsense Bots banning random accounts. Better dont put all your eggs into one basket and dont develop for only one company you then will be dependent on. Especially if the company is as big as G or FB. They dont care loosing a few good publishers, but a publisher who has invested all his time or money will care.

Hope FB will react better then G and reactivate their apps.

When Roger Ebert's page was banned on the 21st his complaint was reversed with in a few hours... http://twitter.com/#!/ebertchicago/status/831526706464686

So it can be done, hopefully the attention in HN will help

Sure, if you are a celebrity.

It looks like GoodReads was banned within the last 24 hours from Facebook as well: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/314867-goodreads-and-fac...

I find it interesting that most of my non-technical friends actively dislike Facebook. Their growth comes from new markets while their existing user-base grows increasingly dissatisfied.

Wow, you'd think banning would be important enough to pay someone minimum wage to sift through and find the ones that don't make sense.

Would you trust someone at minimum wage to do it?

At the same time, FB makes lots of money per capita. They could hire a few grunt banhammer moderators.

Alright, maybe slightly more than minimum.

But yes, I would. If their job was to sort through and find questionable bans, and they knew their job would be on the line if they missed too many, they'd do a decent job. Certainly better than is being done right now.

After all, for the same wages, they could be flipping burgers instead. I know which I'd pick. The nice, cool office.

I'll do it from home. Don't even have to provide an office!

Course, what's it cost to buy someone in india an office and pay a wage?

Well, right now there's no-one at all. So it would be an improvement.

I humbly suggest that the problem is more complex than it appears, eg:


I feel we need an independent org that does arbitration of API/platform-related cases. Have a complaint about Facebook's API? File it with the independent org and as a member of the org, Facebook will be forced to resolve it in a fair manner or take a reputation hit.

The most extreme cases could be decided by a human arbitrator.

But in this case, it sounds like FB is already taking a reputation hit (at least among the HN demographic), with no apparent effect.

True - but I think it'll be a little different if an official independent organization gives them a "Poor" rating for support or platform reliability.

Who's the audience that would be more influenced by a rating like that?

I highly doubt that the 'conspiracy theories' popping up against the photo apps are correct. If they are, then facebook has bigger problems than lack of API stability. Good tech companies and engineers should be confident enough in their work. Try searching for 'search' on Google.

Looks like TechCrunch caught on to this thread, sorry if it was already posted by someone else.


It's pretty interesting that most of the apps seem to be photo related, with lots of users.

Old news. Facebook told us in a developer blog entry months ago that the auto-ban bot looks at user feedback such as hides, comments, uninstalls, mark as spam, extended permissions prompt acceptance rates etc. And you as an app developer can actually see all of this data through the Insights feature of the developer app.

Too many developers have their head in the sand and think just because they have 1 million users and a 4 star review rating that everything is peachy. The fact is there are a ton of crap apps that spew out BS. Maybe the user who installed the app thinks it is great to spam all of their friends' feeds, but when those friends hide the app's posts, mark it as spam, etc. then the app is going to risk auto-banning.

I know folks on HN don't play Farmville or spend all day on these apps like fortune cookie, quiz of the day, etc., but bazillions of FB users have nothing but app-generated posts on their walls.

Sure, if spammy apps were engaged by staff at Facebook, notified of specific issues and giving an amount of time to fix there wouldn't be an issue, instead things are getting auto deleted without even a look over by a person.

Where is that quote about not depending on a platform that is out of your control?

How can automatic banning/deletion of content ever be a good idea?

Two words: spam filters.

Step 1: Base your entire business model on the latest buzzing platform (Facebook) Step 2: ???? Step 3: Profit!!! ... Step 4: Get banned, lose all your hard earned work.

What was the fred wilson quote about not being _____'s bitch?

It baffles me why there are no large competing social gaming web platforms. Google, Zynga, EA (playfish) could easily start one. It's a guaranteed success: people love games to be social. Facebook developers are so disgruntled with the FB platform that they 'd flock in hordes to convert their games.

On top of that, facebook enforces FB credits from July, and banned adsense advertising in apps. We are not going to pay 30% of our revenue to facebook for such a crappy platform. We moved our apps to an external website.

I think it's because you need the rest of the platform to make it work. FB games took off by spamming your friends and getting them hooked, too.

If the platform only has games, there's nothing really to spam... It's not like people are watching their wall for activity at that point.

There ARE gaming networks out there, BTW. They just really haven't taken off. Search for 'social gaming site' to find some.

Steam could be considered a gaming network, I suppose. It has a pretty strong community behind it.

I think the parent is right that it has to be more social- than gaming-oriented

Most FB games aren't real games. They are disguised simulations designed to make you bring as many of your friends as you can. Just start playing one of the Zynga games like Frontierville or such. Within 15mins I think you're asked to contact your friends for various reasons like 10 times, and could post things about the game on your wall 30 times easy. It's ridiculous.

Kongregate? I think it's not that such things don't exist, it's that they don't get to be a runaway success without the basic social application driving it. Games alone aren't enough of an incitement or enticement for many users.

I think the fact that there are no other large competing social gaming web platforms shows that it is actually not at all a guaranteed success.

Actually, Friendster has just relaunched itself as a social gaming platform. I haven't looked too much into it yet.

Yay! Less apps for me to add to my block list.

Cool, let's all cheer about the fact that a lot of developers just got screwed, and so did a lot of their users.

Yep. Facebook would actually be tolerable if it weren't for all the stupid apps that keep popping up. I wouldn't be so annoyed if there was a global app shutoff switch. Then again if there was they'd probably switch it back on randomly just like they do with my other settings.

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