Facebook Applications: The Blessing & the Curse

It seems that Facebook applications are becoming the bane of a Facebook user’s existence.  At least on Facebook anyway.  Since Facebook announced their API hundreds of applications have been developed for the Facebook platform and several hundred are used on peoples profiles daily.

There is an application for everything.  You can find out “What Your Love Language Is” or you can join the new generation of Oregon Trail.  If neither of those suit you, you can “Super Poke” your friends or even have Twitter update your status.  Want to play Scrabble, they even have you covered there.  Point is, there are a lot of Facebook applications.

For every person that installs a ton of Facebook applications, there are those that find the idea of a bunch of applications messing up their profile to be horrendous at best.  There are people who complain regularly about the many applications that dominate Facebook profiles.  It really is an “either/or” kind of game out there with regards to Facebook Applications.

So what is it exactly about these applications that have some Facebook users up in arms?  It could be one of two issues depending on who you ask.  The less vocal bunch are those that do not like looking at profiles that have a ton of applications on them.  They find these applications distracting from the social aspect of Facebook.  Most of the folks in this lot tend to just deal with it and move on.  The other group however make blog posts, posts on the “Wall” of their Facebook friends, and are extremely vocal about their hatred for Facebook applications.  Why?  Because a lot of these applications require you to “invite” friends to join in and install the application.  In several cases you can’t see certain things unless you are also using the specified application.  Sure, Facebook is a social website and some aspects of it can not be enjoyed unless you have friends participating, but should applications require you to invite others in order to install the application?

Basically Facebook applications are new kind of spam in their own right.  I myself have received countless “invites” to certain applications with a note attached from the user inviting me that says something like “You can ignore, I had to invite all my friends to move to the next level” or something similar.  Annoying? You bet.  I however, do not have a ton of friends and so I don’t see this as much as those that have thousands of “friends” (can you really have thousands of “friends”?).

However there is reverse side to this issue.  The fact that the development API that allows programmers to create these applications exists is something of an achievement.  It is something that gave Facebook a nice edge over MySpace (until MySpace joined OpenSocial).  The ability to develop on a social network allowed for some new kinds of applications and nifty innovation.  So while it has created the new “social network spam” it has created a network of applications that run on a social platform.  And not all applications are spammy.  Some of them even make sense (like the BlackBerry PIN Exchnage app).

I think that if we can move away from having to invite our friends when we install and use applications it won’t be so bad and people will be less angry over the issue.  It is going to take time however because most people view the idea of a social application having to be overly social.  We need control over how much social we want in our applications.

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