Scott Himmel is the co-founder of the Facebook application My Restaurants, which allows users to look up restaurants across the country and see reviews from other users (we called it an application that “doesn’t suck” back in March). It’s a teeny tiny app – only about 150 daily active users. But it was responding to those users that got Scott kicked off Facebook for four days earlier this month.
Why should we pay attention to the fortunes of an app with a few dozen users? Because it says something about the steps Facebook is already taking to cut down on spammy apps, and suggests how much more stringent that will become once Facebook’s redesign rolls out. By making it harder for crappy apps to spread, Facebook may also be squelching the chances of small developers building legitimate and useful apps — precisely the kind of thing the network could really use
Here’s what happened to Scott: The “My Restaurants” app encourages users to send him a message when they want a restaurant added to the application. Every four or five days, Scott adds all of the accumulated restaurants and sends a message back to the user letting them know he’s done it. That meant that he was sometimes sending 50-75 messages every four or five days — which is what set off the Facebook spam alarm.
To Facebook’s credit, the network warned Scott three times before booting him off. And now he’s changing the way the app works so that he doesn’t have to send the messages — because Facebook told him that if he’s booted off again, it would be for good.
Facebook’s push to protect users against spam is admirable, and we’re not arguing that they shouldn’t try to curb spam on the network – but they should be wary of accidentally crushing little guys trying to build a legitimate business.