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Facebook: Really using the Social Graph
02
February
2008

The number of Applications on Facebook has risen continuously since Facebook announced its Developer API in mid 2007. While there has been a slew of applications, it is very easy to see a clear trend. As much as 50% of the applications on Facebook are identity definition applications like Characteristics and Compare People, where people characterize their friends, and get characterized in various ways. A big share of the rest of the pie is taken by communication enabling applications like FunWall and SuperPoke which identified the limitations in Facebook early-on and made a field-day of the lower restrictions on spamming in the early days of the Facebook Developers Platform.

Is that all? Can a Facebook Application go beyond the fun to be had out of throwing cows at people, and try to do something that is useful, engaging and fun at the same time? Is there much sense in trying to do anything like that on Facebook? Why not an independent site? These are big questions. And questions any one launching a web-app today must answer. We have taken a close look at Facebook, and we think we have an answer.

We think it makes a lot of sense for a lot of web-apps to start out on Facebook, and here’s why:

1. An existing Social Graph: Any web-app that needs connections between its users to be established should consider being on Facebook. It makes a lot of sense to utilize the connections that people have already built on Facebook with their friends, family and strangers, than to try building it all over again from scratch in a stand-alone web-application.

2. Diverse user demographics: While almost all of the current most successful applications on Facebook have ridden on huge activity of teenagers on Facebook, there is a continuously rising base of users who are post their mid twenties, are college grads, and are not really interested in xMe and SuperPoke. A “useful, engaging and fun app” sure might appeal to them.

3. Freedom to Developers: Facebook allows developers to do pretty much anything inside their applications as long as they do not bother Facebook users who don’t want to use the application. This allows web developers to do just about as much they could have done on an independent web-site, at a place the user frequents often.

The above three factors, combined together, offer a very exciting possibility for anyone launching a web-app today. Your web-app might be of the “serious” kind, and not as much “fun” or “viral” as a FunWall or Compare People, but it would still make a lot of sense to launch it on Facebook. What more, a “serious” application can potentially put the Social Graph to more interesting, beneficial and directly monetizable uses.

Of course, the opportunity comes with its own set of hazards. More later!

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