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?


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