Facebook applications are cool and popular right now. Everyone wants one. Indeed, I found it very interesting that BJ Fogg is teaching a class on Facebook Apps. This class seems relevant and interesting. I’d take it!
However, I’m actually not a fan of (using) Facebook applications. I’d rather give applications a whole Web page to work with. I believe that Facebook applications are written because they can draw many users through viral marketing, not because they are generally better or easier to deploy than stand-alone apps.
The benefit that I see from a user’s perspective is that it becomes much easier to engage in social applications. Our research lab has been playing Scrabulous on Facebook for a few weeks now. Would anyone have played had they not already been part of the same social network? In general, I would like to see data comparing the number of games played on Facebook with the number played on scrabulous.com.
Compare Facebook-style social applications with MovieLens buddies, an old-style social feature that allows users to share ratings and receive movie recommendations together. Nobody uses it. Now, if MovieLens had a Facebook application, would we also benefit from the viral effect? Is a Facebook application the path to (research) riches and glory?