There’s some interesting data over on the 20bits blog, showing how the level of activity in the Facebook developers forum has been declining since the start of this year. There are 27% less active users now than there were in January on the developer forums, spurring fears that developers are abandoning the platform.
Apparently this decline is reflected in activity on the Facebook platform itself – apparently applications launched in early January were on average 1.5 times more successful than apps launched at the end of March.
Both VentureBeat and The Equity Kicker suggest that Facebook’s stricter regulation of applications may be part of the reason, as the site places more restrictions on how applications can interact with users. However, the latter blog points out that “the bull case for Facebook is that their actions have cut out low quality applications and that developer activity will rise again as they start producing better content”.
That’s certainly a view we share. As a games company creating high production-value games for social networks, we see stricter moderation of the platform as a good thing. It will help reduce noise for consumers, and get them to focus on the applications they enjoy using.
Over time, there is clearly an incentive for social networks like Facebook to support the kind of applications which help them achieve their goals – distribution, retention, time spent on the site and monetisation, for example – over applications that ‘game’ the system, and reduce user satisfaction through excessive spam or other questionable features.
We haven’t really seen an impact on our own numbers from Facebook’s recent changes. We just launched a new game, Word Challenge, and reached 100,000 players in less than a week. Meanwhile, our first title, Who Has The Biggest Brain?, is still going strong with more than 2.5 million players.
So, the Facebook platform is maturing, which is a good thing for users and developers should be thinking harder about how to add value to it. Facebook’s approach to building its platform has been very thoughtful to date, and this just seems the next natural step in its evolution.
Besides, if you’ve developed games on traditional platforms, you’ll know that the platform providers are far more restrictive about publishing for their system. By comparison, things are still pretty good on Facebook!