Facebook developers to get access to iPhone platform too, poor suckers

Nicholas Carlson · 07/24/08 04:00PM

Widgetmakers think they have it tough complying with Facebook's changing rules and secret motives, but that's probably because they haven't had to deal with Apple yet. Lucky them. Now they do. Facebook executive Ben Ling announced yesterday at F8 that Facebook Connect — Facebook's initiative to weave activity on other websites into its site — will launch on the iPhone later this fall.InsideFacebook's Justin Smith says Facebook's third-party developers have been "clamoring" for access to Facebook's mobile platform, but we wonder if they know what kind of headache they're getting into. Not only is Apple secretive to the extreme about upcoming changes to its iPhone apps platform, it forces developers to keep quiet. Apple requires an NDA for "every single developer working on the platform — and every single person who installs the iPhone developer's kit" — greatly limiting any kind of help coders can be to each other when creating new apps.

Facebook execs to favor widgets built by investors, relatives

Nicholas Carlson · 07/23/08 12:20PM

Today at its F8 developers' conference, Facebook will announce a plan to give favored widgets more abilities to promote themselves on the site. The first two apps to get "preferred" status will be Causes and iLike. What does being a "preferred" widgetmaker mean? A source tells us that in the short term, Facebook will simply promote preferred apps in users' News Feeds more often, increasing their chances of spreading from friend to friend. "Basically, it is a subsidy program for their favorite darlings," says our source. Causes is an app backed by former Facebook president Sean Parker; iLike is a startup backed by Marc Bodnick of Elevation Partners, who is also a private Facebook investor and the brother-in-law of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Our source also tells us that after top tier preferred apps, there will be a middle tier of "certified/approved/vetted" applications as well.

Facebook's F8 conference all about rapping developers' knuckles

Nicholas Carlson · 07/21/08 12:00PM

Facebook will follow its F8 developers conference this Wednesday with another 8-hour "hackathon" for third-party developers and Facebook engineers to work on widgets. This will be fun to watch, because those two groups kind of despise each other right now. Last spring, Facebook began taking a hardline stance against widgets that spam users or violate privacy rules, even going so far as to temporarily remove popular apps like Top Friends and Super Wall from the site this summer. Then, a beta test of Facebook's new profile revealed a new feature that made Slide's Top Friends redundant. Slide responded cheerfully to the news, but one exec at a widgetmaker told us that if Facebook keeps up the regime of enforcement and copycat apps, venture capital for Facebook-focused startups will dry up. Of course, we hardly expect a brawl or even public arguments during the "hackathon" — passive-aggressive Twitter notes and other forms of repressed resentments, anyone? Developers, save yourselves the future therapy bills. Just do what Facebook wants and build the kind of apps its employees describe in the video below. That seems easier.

Widgetmaker: How not to get your app suspended from Facebook

Nicholas Carlson · 07/18/08 11:20AM

Over the past month, Facebook has shown itself to have a quicker trigger when it comes to banning applications from its site for rule violations. It's part of the reason, observers say, that venture capital for Facebook-app startups is slowing down. The punished include apps from major developers RockYou and Slide. But they also include guys like developer Dan Abelon, who saw his popular SpeedDate widget booted from the platform for a couple hours earlier this month. Abelon told Inside Facebook what other application developers should do to make sure the same doesn't happen to them. The bullet points — which paint a picture of Facebook as a fairly ruthless enforcer — are below, trimmed to give widgetmakers more time to call those VCs who suddenly all seem to be on vacation all the time.

Sprint says Google is too optimistic about Android

Nicholas Carlson · 07/15/08 03:20PM

Jake Orion, the guy in charge of Android development at Sprint, says that while "Google’s confidence, vision and self assurance are refreshing and innovative," Google needs to " to appreciate and address industry fundamentals more pragmatically." Specifically, Orion told Google needs "a more proactive and direct linkage to the carrier’s network and service requirement" — which we think means Google hasn't yet made Android friendly to how Sprint runs its network. Details, details! Who needs to worry about that when you're busy being self-assured and confident?

New Facebook feature makes Slide's Top Friends app redundant

Nicholas Carlson · 07/15/08 11:40AM

If you're the application developer and they're the platform owner, you have to know death can come at any moment: Create a popular, simple application, and the platform owner might just rip you off in their next release. It's happened to Max Levchin's Slide, maker of the popular Facebook widget Top Friends. With its latest profile redesign, Facebook now allows users to specify which friends they'd like to display to profile visitors. (See how Facebook's version works in the image above and you'll note that with the friends I've selected, my goal is to intimidate profile visitors with my powerful connections.) Before you feel too sorry for Slide, note that this is a feature MySpace has long offered. Slide, seeing that Facebook lacked it, promptly cooked up Top Friends, which filled the void. Top Friends is Slide's second most popular application with nearly 1.5 million daily active users. On the strength of those user numbers, Slide has raised $50 million in a recent financing round, and is opening an ad-sales office in New York. We asked for Slide's reaction. They were surprisingly chipper!

Facebook's F8 schedule in plain English

Nicholas Carlson · 07/02/08 03:40PM

Facebook released its schedule for its second annual F8 developers' conference on July 23. Facebook's servile, so-called independent developers have three tracks to choose from: "User Experience," "Technical," and "Business." If you work for a Facebook widgetmaker, you're probably confused, because who among you trying to build a business on the Facebook platform doesn't also need to be fully briefed on its user experience and technical aspects? To clarify, we've translated Facebook's description of each track out of verbose PRspeak.

Facebook suspends Max Levchin's Slide over security loophole

Nicholas Carlson · 06/26/08 12:20PM

Until last night, Top Friends by Slide was Facebook's third most popular widget, judging by daily active users and installations. Today, Top Friends is no longer on Facebook at all. says its because pesky Canadian Byron Ng discovered a security loophole in the widget that allowed any user with Top Friends installed to view more profile information — birthdays, gender, and relationship statuses — then Facebook allows strangers to see. Ng discovered a similar loophole in SuperWall, an app made by Slide rival, RockYou. But RockYou already fixed the problem and SuperWall remains on the Facebook platform. No word on whether this little tidbit has Slide founder Max Levchin in this hospital from punching holes in a wall or two. (We hear the rivalry is a little intense).

Google's Android promises are coming up empty

Nicholas Carlson · 06/23/08 03:20PM

Last fall, Google said third-party devices sporting its Android mobile OS would hit the market by the second half of 2008. With that deadline approaching, Google now says the fourth quarter is more realistic. Even that's pushing it, say the device makers. Sprint won't release a phone scheduled for this year until 2009 and the same goes for China Mobile, which planned a phone release for the third quarter. "This is where the pain happens," Google's director of mobile platforms Andy Rubin told the Wall Street Journal. "We are very, very close." Phone makers and Android app developers don't believe it, telling the Journal its too hard to build on Android while Google keeps changing it. Google's plan is to own the mobile platform the way Microsoft owned the PC. Who knew the Mountain View crew would skip straight to Vista? (Photo by traviscrawford)

Fretful developers aside, the competition knows Facebook is the widget platform that matters

Nicholas Carlson · 06/19/08 03:00PM

Developers upset with Facebook's antiviral measures tell us enthusiasm for Facebook's platform is waning. Nonsense, says Steve Cohen, the head of platform engineering at Facebook rival Bebo. Earlier this year, Cohen built a platform for Bebo that was entirely compatible with apps built for Facebook. Cohen told Silicon Alley Insider that Bebo's big worry right now isn't that Facebook's redesign will kill developer enthusiam for the shared platform, but that a new Facebook platform will leave Bebo a step behind. Said Cohen: “Facebook really threw a monkey wrench in the whole compatibility thing. If we’re not compatible with Facebook, no one is going to develop for our platform.”

Facebook delays site redesign, again

Nicholas Carlson · 06/19/08 01:40PM

Originally scheduled for release in April, pushed back to June after developers freaked out, Facebook's site redesign is now delayed until July. "Launching in July gives us more time to make sure we release the best possible profile design to our users and developers," Facebook's Pete Bratach wrote on the company blog. While perhaps clumsily handled, the delay is probably a good idea. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will give a keynote at Facebook's second annual developer conference on July 23. Drumming up anticipation for a big reveal won't turn Zuckerberg into Steve Jobs overnight, but it might help keep the focus on what he says, not how awkwardly he says it.

Heard this one before? eBay announces developer platform, Project Echo

Nicholas Carlson · 06/17/08 10:40AM

Wall Street has long sought an eBay site redesign. Finally, eBay has a plan to get one . The company announced Project Echo, a software platform for third-party developers whom the company hopes will do the heavy lifting to get such a redesign done. "Rather than having eBay try to build every feature, we should open up the platform and integrate others' work," eBay exec Max Mancini told reporters. Project Echo is the perfect name, if only because we've heard all this before.

Microsoft Vista ranks well behind XP, Linux in application developers' hearts

Jackson West · 06/16/08 05:20PM

The operating system from Redmond that was going to blow developers away, Windows Vista, is being used as an application platform by only eight percent of software developers surveyed by Evans Data. 13 percent are developing for Linux, and a whopping 49 percent are still developing for Windows XP, which was released sometime before the birth of Mark Zuckerberg. []

Bill Gates last move at Microsoft is to replace Steve Ballmer with robot

Jackson West · 06/03/08 08:00PM

Speaking at Microsoft's TechEd conference in Orlando, Florida, Bill Gates said some stuff about Internet Explorer 8, blah blah blah. More importantly, he rolled out the latest version of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, a Windows-powered machine that waves its arms and shouts "Developers, developers, developers!" It can even throw eggs in order to fend off ruthless Hungarians when necessary. Presumably it can also throw chairs to fend off larger predators like Google. However, any attempts to buy Yahoo inevitably result in a blue screen of death. We hear Steve Ballmer 2.0's first decision was to hire Lloyd Braun.

Facebook's new profile: "Orwellian"

Owen Thomas · 06/02/08 07:00PM

Welcome to the Silicon Valley hype cycle: One year, and you're over. That seems to be the consensus on Facebook's vaunted platform, whose one-year anniversary went largely unremarked. The company itself didn't blog about it until today, and sources tell us an open-bar party Facebook held in Palo Alto was low-key to the point of despair. It can't have helped that Google was throwing a massive party in San Francisco the same day to close out its conference for developers. How different a scene from a year ago, when the F8 launch event of Facebook Platform won comparisons of the company to Microsoft and of founder Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates.

Google misspells binary message — or does it?

Owen Thomas · 05/29/08 09:40AM

Google's developer conference in San Francisco, Google I/O, is a temporary geek paradise, a replication of the Googleplex's lavish perks. Flight of the Conchords played last night. Google also provided puzzles. TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington noticed that a binary code sequence on Google's T-shirt for the event spells "GOOGLE KO". A mistake? Or a test to see if readers are clever enough to notice that the top half of a "K" looks like an "I" and a slash?

Google I/O conference registration fails

Owen Thomas · 05/29/08 01:00AM

A tipster reported from the scene — a madhouse — at Google's I/O conference for developers, held in San Francisco today and tomorrow:

MySpace bans the spam tactics that ruined Facebook apps

Nicholas Carlson · 05/21/08 12:40PM

Little-known MySpace "cofounder" Kyle Brinkman announced new rules for application developers on the social network's platform today. They're meant to prevent the spam bubble Facebook went through after it launched its platform last year. In response, Facebook tightened up its rules, and offended developers in the process. MySpace's new rules:

Finally, the craplets on Facebook begin to fail

Nicholas Carlson · 05/07/08 11:40AM

New accounts and activity on Facebook's developer forums are down dramatically since January, reports Adonomics founder Jesse Farmer. And as the above chart indicates, Facebook's users no longer add third-party Facebook applications as much as they did at the beginning of the year. Along with increased competition from social network Hi5 and consolidation into larger widgetmaking companies, Farmer blames the slowdown on Facebook for "instituting increasingly demanding and arbitrary rules on platform developers, which they then enforced selectively and for their own benefit." We agree the slowdown is likely the result of the new rules, but we don't so much blame Facebook as praise Facebook for them.