I'm working on a thing right now that's integrated with Facebook, and I'm excited about it.
The problem author mentions are all legitimate, but only applicable to a certain category of apps - and I think both users and Facebook alike are of the opinion "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out".
We're talking about the spammy apps that try to take over your news feed, and that constantly overshare in an attempt at "virality". Social networking is maturing, and users are no longer lambs to the slaughter of these shitty apps, and Facebook won't stand for them either.
Author complains about the lack of virality and acknowledges that many of the normal routes to virality are now cut off. Thank God. Let's be honest, when developers say "virality" they don't mean "something so interesting and cool that you must share it with everyone", they mean "something annoying, like that kid in class that stands up and shouts at people every 20 seconds".
Apps that offer actual social value to their users, who aren't 100% reliant on Facebook for user base, are fine. As are actual viral things - you know, stuff that's interesting and fun that encourages people to share (see: The Oatmeal's Facebook feed).
I for one am glad that parasitic apps are leaving the Facebook ecosystem. There's now more room for developers who offer real value to users. The thesis here seems to be "I can no longer be a parasitic bad actor in this ecosystem!", to which my response is "someone call the waaaaaahmbulance".
Just the thought of having an app inside of an iframe is silly to be honest. It's not the way products are meant to be experienced.
On iOS or Android, you are in someone else's ecosystem, but at least your app takes control of the entire user interface. You cannot have that much control over the customer experience in the context of a facebook frame.
Worked on a facebook app for about 5 months, had to rewrite a significant portion of the UI when a breaking change happened about 3 months in. That one was ok, we learned our lesson and stayed on top of the roadmap of planned changes. However when with a couple weeks prior to release a new major breaking change was announced to be planned for about 6 months later, it was scary...
the consultancy didnt have an issue, they were ok with getting paid over and over to do the same thing, the end user accepted it, but personally i was just bored to death with the we will just keep reimplimenting this every 6-12 months.
The article is mostly right. Facebook is now a mature platform (not in a triple-X way). It's no longer the wild west, which is good in some aspects, bad on others.
It is, anyhow, much less the land of infinite opportunities it once was. Again, much like the Wild West.
As someone who's done that sort of thing, and has had to support it for two years, I can only wish you the very best of luck.
I completely agree with you. It's just not viable.
If you get little to no customer acquisition benefit from building on their platform and they take too much revenue off the table, and if they keep changing things making it hard to remain stable, and it's hard to know if they'll arbitrarily shut you down if they decide you have a lucrative business proposition, why build on it.
I wonder if they suffer an internal lack of imagination as to what people might use their platform for, and therefore don't understand that they've rendered it worthless for many use cases where they could have been a real platform AND generated additional revenues.
The final issue I see is that if you build something innovative on their platform they have every data point they need to see if it's taking off and being successful - probably before you realize it. This means they can shut you down and buil da competitor, or make you a lowball aqui-hire offer with that threat.
Their haste to move quickly has, I think, caused them to make some strategic mistakes in platform strategy which have hurt their long term position as a platform. Of course, they may not care. They may have quietly, internally, abandoned such an aim, and decided they no longer genuinely want to be a platform on which others build sophisticated applications.
With that said, apps can benefit from facebook's wide userbase and ease of use. It's a good user base for initial visibility, and for trying out new stuff until your app starts gaining traction on its own. Deep integration with the platform is something i will never do again.
The problem is that how many apps actually belong to that category? These are the apps on top of my head:
- pinterest(sometimes, but, not always)
- what else?
Just go check out your Facebook feed, how many of those activities are actually generated by your favorite apps?
Because it's incredibly irritating;
Because it interrupts you when you've just started to read;
Because the popup-tastic 90's are a time nobody wants to relive;
Because (in this case), closing the popup actually seemed to reset the scroll location too;
Because it can totally FU browsing on mobile; (but who cares about mobile anyway? We're supporting people from 1997 maaan!)
Because it's obnoxious.
I decided a few weeks ago that I would no longer read any sites, articles or blogs that do this. I am Jack's bounce rate.
Folks: if you want to have fixed UI elements, that's cool, but then please provide a mobile site version without them.
I also use it to nuke the more aggravating social, pandering, and similar sections of websites.
The author of the submission probably reads one or more of those blogs. A study outside that toxic echo chamber probably wouldn't get the same good results.
I concede it could be bad on developer focused sites. But I also have to believe they have tested it, and by their metrics they have more 'success' using popups than not.
(Don't get me wrong; I hate them too.)
I guess it depends on who you're building for. I've built for a non-technical audience, and wouldn't call them stupid just because they convert due a lightbox popup. Many of these folks want the emails I send, but wouldn't be able to find a more subtle signup.
In general, I try to help my users and not call them stupid.
He doesn't stop propagation on the click event, which causes the # to be appended to the url and the scroll to reset to the top of the page. Basic jQuery, that.
Successful iOS and Android developers are integrating Facebook into their mobile apps. It's not an either/or equation. In fact, as of this month, more than 81% of the top 100 grossing iOS apps and 70% of the top 100 grossing Android apps integrate with Facebook.
All categories of developers continue to build with Facebook (fitness, books, music, games, etc.) with over 10 million apps and websites integrated with Facebook. Notably, games continues to be an extremely popular category – more than 250 million people play games on Facebook each month, and canvas installs have gone up 75% in the past year. Most of our games developers had record years in 2012, and over 100 of these developers made more than $1M in 2012 (in total, we paid out more than $2B to games developers in 2012).
With regard to Platform policies, for the small number of apps that violate our policies (replicate our functionality, fuel their app's growth at the expense of people's experience or expectations) we take action as needed. But for the vast majority of developers building great social apps, keep doing what you're doing.
Our goal is – and has always been – to give people a convenient way to login to apps, create personalized and social experiences, and let people share the things they care about through the apps they use.
It seems like Windows RT is the first time they've actually broken backwards binary compatibility isn't it?
Very much not true. Early on, "DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run." They pulled the same trick several times against competitors, for instance Microsoft Word took dominance with Windows 95 because there was a period of 9 months where WordPress was not available on the new OS while Microsoft Word was.
This was one of the issues in Novell's 2004 lawsuit against Microsoft for anti-competitive behavior. The last I heard was an appeal filed late last year, see http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20121123221716522 for details. I do not think that the appeal has been decided yet.
There have been other, less nefarious, sources of breakage. For instance at one point Microsoft changed malloc() to try to assign recently deallocated memory if possible. The purpose is laudable - it is to push developers to notice and fix memory bugs. However, it naturally caused many programs that had been working to quickly crash. (Previously they would have run for much longer before crashing - long enough to be useful, but quickly enough to contribute to the perception that Microsoft software was buggy.)
Therefore Microsoft made a list of important programs that it knew would crash, and for those programs only gave them the old behavior. Many small companies did not make the list, and the result is that their programs wouldn't run after that upgrade.
Microsoft's behavior here was defensible (in fact I like it), but it was a deliberate incompatibility.
btilly surely meant WordPerfect, not WordPress.
In fact, I just ran across an old fax from one of the Windows 95 devs, telling me how they planned to patch Windows to work around a bug in my middleware library that didn't show up until people started running their apps in Windows 95 DOS boxes, and asking for my opinion.
That was a far cry from the "DOS isn't done 'til Lotus won't run" behavior that the company was previously known for, and also a long way from their later behavior with Vista ("They bought their tickets, let them crash.")
There is a lot to be said about developing for Windows, but not being backwards compatible for sure is not one of those things.
IBM shipped the first iteration of the System/360 in 1966. They have maintained, with minor caveats, backwards application compatibility with that version to the present across their various mainframe lines.
As an example of such a caveat, in 1995 the AS400 line underwent the 48-bit to 64-bit transition. If your executable was "observable", meaning it had debugging information, the first time you ran in 64-bit mode IBM would recompile it under the hood and your software would then run in 64-bit mode. If you had no source and no debugging information in your executable, you were out of luck until you got a new executable. Most customers experienced no issues.
But..mainframes? Who uses those? A lot of people, it turns out. A 2005 estimate said that globally 90% of financial transactions ran through COBOL. There is no reason to believe that this figure is significantly reduced today. The core of most of that COBOL code is decades old, and the customers are locked to IBM's platform because nobody can afford the cost or risk of a rewrite. But machines need to be replaced. Therefore IBM's customers still collectively cough up an average of something like $1 billion/month on new mainframe hardware.
I've been developing a programmer’s editor for every version of Windows since 3.0 and can honestly say I never notice any of these issues with newer versions of Windows.
I can safely say the crashes I witnessed where all of my own making.
And as for Facebook itself , I have spent thousands of dollars buying stuff online -- books, bags , h/w , s/w,etc., and yet when I login to Facebook, I am greeted with ads for match.com ads or other dating sites. Note to Facebook: there is no point showing dating ads to people who are searching for deals on Graco , Lego and miscellaneous school supplies.
If you argue that poor targeting is deliberate, then FB is prioritizing advertisers at the expense of users. If it is the result of poor targeting tools, then it is just bad for all parties (including, ultimately, Facebook itself).
Anyhow, the problem is there and is clearly visible.
In other words, I think Facebook should be selling advertisers a higher level service than broad demographics.
Theoretically, I should be able to go to Facebook and say, "Here's my product, help me target my advertisements." Then Facebook looks through its data to see who "Likes" similar products or has searched for similar things or whatever, then figures out a target group based on that, and lets me advertise to them.
To be honest, though, I block the ads on Facebook anyway, so I'm not too concerned about it
I would think that access to the majority of a person's communication with other people would give even more targeted ads.
SO, you can't target males 18-35 who like heavy metal and extreme sports.
You can only target males 18-35 who like heavy metal OR extreme sports.
Subtle, but very results changing difference.
I hope I'm wrong on this point. Does anyone know how to do it?
If I insist on targeting the wrong crowd it gets very expensive.
That's why Google ads suck less.
But the single worst thing about facebooks ads is that you can't dislike them. I don't get why as marketeers would love that kind of feedback, as would facebook.
But I suspect the real reason is that any really good offer wouldn't need to be send out as and ad but would be shared organically.
I know of apps that have been banned because malicious actors were using access tokens from those apps to do spammy things even though the app itself wasn't sending those requests. Facebook returns access tokens in the URL upon authorization, so the user is exposed to it and can use it for anything they want. Given nothing more than an app ID, any user can send spam posts and make it appear to have come from any app they choose. This includes Facebook-owned apps.
This is mot a dig at Apple - iOS is their garden and they may do as they wish - but a general reminder that risk assessment is necessary when you build your business on top of anybody else's stack (be it Twitter, FB, Apple, Google or Amazon).
If working at Facebook on the Facebook.com codebase is anything like working with their API, it's a wonder anyone would want to work there.
Last major one that bit me was some functionality just stopped working - when you made requests to the URI they provided (that had worked before) in the docs, doing exactly what they said, you get an error.
Now you're thinking, the error will help you solve it.
What do you do when their documentation tells you to use a URI, and you get a 404 error? I don't mean once for a short time. I mean, one day it just stops working and gives 404 errors, for weeks and weeks. Open tickets, with no response from support.
- In the beginning, there are few rules and so it's the wild west. Developers see what they can get away with.
- As time goes on, platforms look at what uses of it pose a key threat to their core product (e.g. social graph, twitter client, payment platform, third-party engines, etc.) Those threats will be extinguished. Developers dependent on those key threats will be burned as they get shut down.
- Ad rates when the market is empty will always be cheaper than when the market becomes crowded.
- Competition makes it harder for smaller devs to survive. Remember the days when you could be an indie developer and have a chance at succeeding on iOS? Now all the big guys chart and the small guys don't make squat.
- The part about mobile is true but this is affecting ALL web platforms, not just FB.
Yes, Supercell got a huge investment but they are the exception, not the rule. They are the "Zynga of iOS" if you will (in the context of success/investment). The question is whether we'll see more of these kind of investments. Given that games is a hits-based business, I'm guessing it'll still be pretty rare.
All the big platform websites readjusted their strategy back to become destination sites.
All what we notice (eg less impact even during new-feature-landgrabs) is just a symptom of this.
eg: Twitter, Facebook, even Google (see search api), etc etc
All started out as platforms. Now all of them focus rather on monetization on-site.
I remember a talk of a facebook engineer who said once "facebook.com is just one of the many websites on the fb platform - it is of minor importance - the platform is the social layer of the internet".
Back then I personally assumed their main revenue channel will become micropayments (which would go align with the platform strategy). But it didn't happen and i couldn't imagine hearing a similar quote anymore today.
I think it's timing. You probably could have said the same thing about Google before they launched Adsense.
There's nothing stopping Facebook from building a platform to run ads across the web. My guess is they've discovered the web doesn't yet have enough social context to sustain the kind of ads they want to provide. (Instead, they end up feeling like creepy hyper-personalized banner ads.)
Because FB.com is about exclusively people (and brands to a degree) it's a suitable environment to show ads or sponsored content based on social behavior. FB is the social fabric for the web, but people still feel it all lives on their website.
Quickest way to change this might be to try to own the experience enclosure. (Build a browser, mobile OS, etc.)
This is all conjecture on my part, no facts to back it up, but just pointing out its common for a business to 'think' XYZ is the monetization solution, and then after time and effort come to realize they have to pivot to another direction.
Fundamentally I think a lot of these 'platform' offerings have come to realize they cannot actually monetize the platform at the scale they would like, and have as a result made the business decision to monetize their 'application'/'website'. Twitter, google, facebook, etc this is becoming quite a common phenomenon. In fact the most stable platforms appear to either be outside of the direct control of a single for profit entity, or else an 'add on' feature of a entity highly profitable from another vector. If apple was dependent on the app store for the majority of their profit, I think we would see them having to do an about face, instead the availability of the app store is a 'feature' but their profits come elsewhere so they have freedom to let it operate as a platform.
Check out the bug tracking system on their developer portal, there are tons of bugs which they just ignore.
So, I switched to twitter "tweet" buttons. Integration took my about 30 minutes. No style issues either. I'm not saying I trust Twitter more, they've had some crap API problems recently as well... but I'm just saying I don't trust Facebook, not for a second.
Just because a few VCs in SV aren't investing in Facebook based startups, doesn't mean developers/startups are leaving in droves.
(I actually love HN, but this trend, especially among a group that's supposed to be very technical, is often disheartening)
It is also obvious that you never can rely solely on a 3rd party (without explicit contracts) to build your business on. [Unless you can make a lot of money very quickly but than you can as well go to Las Vegas.]
There is just too much wishful thinking. It is not that Facebook, Google or Apple is evil. It is ultimately about the interests and when there are confrontations you have to hold the right cards in your hands. Begging is not really a good business option.
This article seems to focus more on canvas apps, rather than offsite apps (which is what I see more of these days). Andrew is right on most of these points, my company used to build tons of bespoke facebook apps for people, not anymore. Seems like wildfire cashed out at the right time.
In my opinion, it can be done way better completely outside of facebook, and you get to own your own users. I am going to write an article actually about this, and post it here.
For now: http://myownstream.com/blog#2011-05-21
Again hard to argue with many of the points raised, but with that said I think there's still opportunity - just not the same as before where the likes of Zynga and iLike were able to get shed loads of traffic for virtually nothing.
As a result, FB is keenly focused on keeping its feed and request channels relevant and trimmed down, while developers would rather use the channel to blast as many people as possible. That's also why Facebook is fine with breaking stuff for its developers if it makes the customer experience better.
Unless, maybe, there were somehow middlemen buying facebook ads and then reselling them to someone else, that's not 'arbitrage' (and even then, questionable).
Guess I am so used to seeing word repurposed (especially nouns being verbified and vice versa) that i just filed this away in the 'maybe' this is what the marketing kids are saying now a days
Me, I'd like to defend the notion that words actually mean something, and using big words because they make you sound cool, without paying any attention to what they mean, makes you a less effective communicator. Even if everybody else is doing it too.
Did this a while back
I would be perfectly fine paying for access to their app platform if it would give me a more stable environment and allow me to access a few things I can't access right now.
I stopped reading right there.
Most people I know, myself included, barely tolerate facebook. Facebook is quickly becoming the platform of the middle-aged mom (because middle-aged dad is often lacking computer literacy skills) who wants to repost image macros that we've all seen on reddit three months ago.
From the user perspective, Facebook just isn't a pleasant experience any more.