Nate Westheimer: Facebook Apps May Be a Fad


New York entrepreneur Nate Westheimer, founder of NYC’s stealth-phase BricaBox, argues that Facebook apps mostly benefit Facebook, not the people and companies who create them, and may therefore prove a fad.  Among the Facebook-wild development set, this thesis is seen as loony and dumb.  (Nate draws a distinction between apps created solely for Facebook, which he’s sceptical of, and sites that create a presence within Facebook, which he’s more optimistic about.)

From Innonate:

#1. Facebook officially shot up to #10 in the Alexa Rankings over the weekend.

#2. According to the same set of statistics, only 3% of Facebook traffic is on the domain (though Quantcast reports that some 46% of visitors have been to and ranks Facebook at #19).

If at least half of this is correct, it shows that nearly half of the Facebook crowd has looked at an app (at least thought about installing one), but then only spends 3% of her time on the app’s Facebook site.

While it has been reported that having a Facebook app gives sites a boost on their natural home, the fact (if it’s a fact at all) that folks aren’t spending time on the app pages–thus only interacting with the app when it’s displayed on a profile, where there are the most restrictions from Facebook–reinforces my early concerns that Facebook-native applications have an uphill battle to fight.

A few nights ago I went to the NY Facebook App Developers Hackathon put on by my friend Amit Gupta, and held at Thumbplay’s HQ.  There, once again, I expressed my concern for the sustainability of developing on the Facebook Platform and the overall quality of applications one can develop on it.  I played the devil’s advocate half to spur a good debate (which was achieved!), but the other half of me has real serious doubts, and expressing those concerns got me chided by NYC A-list blogger Jeff Jarvis, among others, for not realising the full potential of Facebook…

While some of the chiding was warranted (some people are clearly going to exploit the platform to its highest potential, so it’s definitely not all bad), I still don’t feel foolish for asking serious questions before drinking the koolaid. After the event, several developers in the room came up to me and quietly admitted their own reservations about developing in a walled garden, which cannot — by default — move as quickly as they want to innovate.

Anyway, there’s lots more to say here, but I’d just sound like a broken record. For the record, I don’t hate the Facebook Platform or Facebook itself. Indeed, I spend nearly all of my “social networking” time on Facebook and think that it’s one of the best products ever created for the Internet.

However, for the record, I do begin fear an Internet that has another Google. I may be especially self-interested in this, but the fewer areas where there’s ubiquity on the net I say is better. Thus, I don’t actually want Facebook to be the social networking and web app platform. I want the Internet to be the platform everyone is still talking about. And I want Facebook to remain a corner of that Internet where I go to work and play.

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