Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Why it makes sense to give your money to Facebook

I recognise I’m a little late coming to the table on this one, so anyone who reads this post probably already knows: Facebook is considering charging application developers to have their applications listed in the app directory. And there’s a pretty big backlash… and I think MySpace feels pretty damn smug about the whole thing.

Here’s the neat thing: The amount of money that’s being spent, which is fairly considerable for solo developers, but a drop in the bucket for larger companies (about $400 to get it listed, then $100 a year to keep it there), is providing you with added value. Or in business-speak, it’s a value-add! Your $400 isn’t requred to let people use your application, it goes to have your application certified by Facebook, and listed in the directory. You get increased visibility in user news feeds and a little stamp on your application info page that assures that the application is safe. Your money goes somewhere. You benefit from spending it.

But remember, kids: anyone can develop an application for Facebook, make it publicly available, and advertise it. Absolutely anyone. There’s no barrier to entry. If you’re quick enough, this entire process can happen in one day, and you don't have to give a red cent to Facebook. With MySpace, you have to apply to be a developer, providing MySpace with your phone number so they can verify your identity (there’s at least one day lost, sometimes two), and then every application you develop has to be authorised by a member of the MySpace staff before anyone else can use it.

MySpace laughs, because they certify every application for free. But it can take as much as a week to hear back from MySpace, sometimes more, and if this is the first time you’ve made an application, you’ll probably have to resubmit it several times. Developing a MySpace application involves a great deal of waiting on them before anyone other than yourself can do anything. Everything’s “certified”, and that’s all well and good, but it takes a lot longer, and working with MySpace’s application verification team is an exercise in frustration.

Facebook is providing an optional service which, yes, improves their revenue stream, but gives application developers a tangible benefit over the usual model. As I said, increased visibility, publication in the application directory and a badge for your application, assuring your users that your application is safe to use. All this for $400 up front and $100 a year. Less than $0.30 a day. If you have a need for those benefits, you probably have financial backing for your app. You have an incoming revenue stream that outpaces what Facebook is asking by a long shot.

And if you’re a software company who write applications for other companies, you can always build it into your price and say “every application we write is certified by Facebook.”

It’s a great option. If you want it, it’s there. If you don't… don't worry about it! As the ING Direct guy says, save your money!

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