Are Things Getting Better for Facebook App Developers?

Facebook announced that it is removing its app directory, but also creating a new way to get apps into the Facebook search index. The company says the App Directory (in its current form) just doesn...
Are Things Getting Better for Facebook App Developers?
Written by Chris Crum
  • Facebook announced that it is removing its app directory, but also creating a new way to get apps into the Facebook search index. The company says the App Directory (in its current form) just doesn’t drive a significant amount of traffic to apps.

    “Many developers have been confused about what it means to submit to the App Directory and frustrated by the length of time it took to get approved,” says Facebook’s Carl Sjjogreen. “As we have looked into this issue, we found that the App Directory drove less than 0.5% of all app installs while a significant number of app installs came as a result of Facebook search. Until now, to be visible in search, you had to submit your app to the App Directory.”

    For your app to show up in search, it has to have over 10 monthly active users if it’s not already listed. You can go to the Developer App and click “submit to Search” in the left sidebar.

    Facebook Submit to Search

    “After clicking the link, we will submit your app to our search index,” say Sjogreen. “There is no longer an approval process for getting your app into search. When you make any changes to your app settings, we will automatically update the listing. It can take up to 72 hours for your app to appear in search results. As always, there is no approval process for launching an app on Platform.”

    He adds that Facebook doesn’t expect any noticeable decrease in traffic to apps as a result of the changes.

    The comments on the announcements seem generally positive for the most part, though there is a bit skepticism about how well it will really work. Michael Robellard, who works at American Greetings Interactive, for example, questions when people search in the search bar, what patterns are they looking for, and how are the apps being presented. In other words, are they looking for exact titles or types of apps?

    “If you know exactly what app you are looking for this works great, otherwise not so well,” he comments. “The old app directory didn’t work well either, so I am OK with it going away.”

    “If the search box is a way that users try to find good meaningful apps to use, then I would love to see it improved, to give more relevant results, if the search box is not used much more than the App Directory was used, then we should try and come up with other ways to connect users to our apps,” he adds. “Ads are OK, but it seems that there should be some sort of directory/store type mechanism as that has become very effective and popular on Mobile platforms and is beginning to show up on desktops (Mac App Store) and in browsers (Chrome App Store).”

    Facebook did launch new Insights for developers last week, that should help them take actions to improve their app performance. This comes after Facebook’s “ban bot” sent a tidal wave through the developer community shutting down apps it deemed too spumy without warning. Had the only victims actually been unwanted spam apps that would’ve been one thing, but some seemingly legitimate apps were pulled down as well. You can see one case about this here.

    Facebook’s Mike Vernal said, “To prevent spam and other bad user experiences, we have systems in place that constantly monitor user feedback about apps. Historically, if an app crosses a threshold of negative feedback, our systems have automatically disabled the app.”

    “We recently launched some changes to those systems that over-weighted certain types of user feedback, causing us to erroneously disable some apps,” he added. “While we quickly re-enabled those apps, we realize that any downtime has a significant impact on both our developers and users. Many of our developers have chosen to build their businesses on top of Facebook, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

    The company launched what it called “improvements to its enforcement systems” to provide more user feedback directly to developers. They began rolling out a “News Feed” tab in Insights to show positive feedback like comments, likes and clicks, as well as negative feedback like hides and marks as spam.

    Spam Insights for Facebook developers

    In addition, the company is taking a “granular enforcement” approach. Vernal explains, “When our systems detect an excessive amount of negative user feedback, we will look to disable only the impacted social channel. For example, if an app is generating a lot of negative feedback via chat messages, we will take action only on that app’s ability to publish to chat but otherwise leave the app intact. Developers will be able to appeal these granular enforcement actions.”

    If Facebook still decides it needs to disable an app, it will be placed in a new “disabled mode” rather than just being deleted. This way, users won’t be able to access the app, but developers will be able to edit it, view insights, and continue appealing, presumably in hopes that if enough changes are made, Facebook will re-enable it. We’ll see how that goes.

    One more important thing to note is that Facebook says it will be moving from per-channel enforcements to a “more sophisticated” ranking model where “the amount of distribution that content gets will be a direct function of its quality.”

    According to Facebook, this means good content will be seen by more people, and bad content will get seen by less. We’ll see how that goes too.

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