Social Enterprise

Oh great, Facebook wants our apps now too

Facebook has announced its own version of an app store, and it has the potential to steamroll all others.

Yesterday, Facebook made its move into app stores with a service that it has dubbed App Center. The sweetener that Facebook is tempting developers with is the opportunity to increase their app audience; the unsurprising price of entry is that the app must use the Facebook log-in. Android and iOS apps, Facebook canvas apps, and even websites that use Facebook log-ins are eligible for entry into the App Center.


(Credit: Facebook)

The scale of the traffic that Facebook could potentially drive with its 900 million users is staggering. From a pure numbers point of view, I'd expect any promotion that Facebook does in the App Center to dwarf the sought-after front-page promotions on Apple's App Store or Google Play.

In using this carrot, Facebook is attempting to lever its Facebook log-in tendrils into more and more applications — and frankly, that should be a matter of concern.

There's not an elephant left in this room anymore, so much as a giant pile of existing context known as Facebook privacy concerns. We've read it before, and, by and large, the general populace does not care about such things — not so long as a virtual farm or city needs attending to.

The other giant pile of concern I have about this is the quality of Facebook's API. It's unreliable, badly documented (if at all), and Facebook will change and deprecate portions of it, seemingly on a whim.

My experience in having to cobble together parts of Facebook's REST and Graph APIs in order to maintain an application's existing functionality is a special form of hell that I do not wish upon another developer. There are few companies that could deprecate an API without having a fully featured replacement ready to go, but this is acceptable behaviour online. And I'm not the first to experience these feelings, either.

Another aspect of Facebook application development that leaves a sour taste is the desirability of five-star reviews and the gaming that applications use to receive them. There are a number of different approaches: hold back features until a five-star rating is given; give the user a bonus; keep spamming until it works; or just do whatever you have to do to get five stars. Regardless of how the rating is gained, it is artificial and no credence should be given to it. How many applications do you use that you would give an honest 100/100 rating to? Now extrapolate that to the core feature of an application store, and you'll see why the rating system is worthless.


Really? Over half of your users gave you a 100 per cent score? Such is the typical example of Facebook ratings.
(Credit: Facebook)

Then there is the sheer carelessness of users and the amount of data that they will hand over in order to play a game. Mix in some extended Facebook permissions with the ability to natively grab a user's address book, and the furore we've seen recently with Path will look like amateur profiling hour.

Yet, despite these faults, access to almost a billion users is quite the lure, and Facebook is aiming to be the prime electronic log-in of your life.

The company is already an online behemoth, is the de facto standard for online identity, and is starting to be used for offline identity-verification, as well. The logical next place for Facebook to push its identity and tracking infrastructure is mobile.

As the temptation to see millions of installs occur through App Center proves irresistible, and more developers come into contact with Facebook's API, I do hope that the stability and support for programmers will rise to the occasion.

After my experience with Facebook, I'm cynical that it will. But, as a programmer, I hope you can find small joys in your work, be it the laughable lengths people will go to in worming out a five-star review, or finding an actual use for all the extra profile and analytical data gleaned from new Facebook users of your application. And who knows; maybe Facebook success will be the driving force in a quick cash-out.

If you haven't had contact with Facebook APIs yet, brace yourself. App Center is now the new place to be.

About

Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

9 comments
SKDTech
SKDTech

I have never been comfortable with the social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace(showing my age :P ). What happened to people being concerned about their right to privacy? Why is it bad for an employer to ask for access to your Facebook profile when most users give it away without a second thought to every app developer, shady or not, without a second thought?

julesgroove
julesgroove

Yes, sadly Mugbook seems to have taken over the world !, I've even come across people who think FB "is" actually "the internet". I also have many friends who think I'm just being anti-social when I tell them that I don't do FB. On the plus side though, as the sheep slide forever into these big corporate traps, the rest of the internet is again becoming the domain of those with more than a Z80 between their ears.

andrew232006
andrew232006

The level of access demanded by the simplest applications is outrageous. Do you want to give this application permission to access and use your personal information? No. It doesn't need my address and a list of all my friends to plant virtual crops or just show me an article. Use how? Basically however they want. Then of course, it won't show me the rest of the article it showed on my feed.

deICERAY
deICERAY

I dislike Facebook intensely and I hate how it has permeated into the open disguised as a 'free' thing - really? You think so? How can a free thing be worth billions? Every time some other organization says "likeme" on defacebook, it's to get your money, not to 'like' anything. They like your money, they do not like you. You could always move to Singapore to be closer to the owners...

bgoings
bgoings

Oh joy, now the rest of facebook will start acting like the dang games. SKETCHY!!!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

That the first post to this article should complain about not being able to find the Facebook App Center...

dold
dold

How odd. No link to the appcenter in the article. I type in what looke like the URL in the screenshot, and it is not found. https://www.facebook.com/appcenter A search for appcenter withing facebook doesn't take me there.

climber333
climber333

I saw the drift and closed my facebook account (I'm sure someone will request psychological testing and a competency hearing) So I'm no longer allowed to use the internet? I'll have to speak to real people now? I'm just uncomfortable with that.