As Techcrunch, Mashable, Venturebeat and others have noted, Facebook is preannouncing a number of changes to its APIs, including a shift to user engagement as the way it presents apps in the directory:
This week you’ll see us shift our application directory metrics to a focus on user engagement. This will help inform users as they make decisions on which applications to add as well as shift developer focus to engagement rather than total users. More specifics will be available as we roll out these changes this coming week.
The focus on engagement is a reflection of how app developers are already behaving today, especially when compared to the widgets being built for MySpace.
Both Facebook and Myspace disallow advertising in the widget/apps appearing on profile pages. But Facebook allows application developers to control the canvas page and place ads on those pages, while giving access via the APIs to the social map. As a result, there are already quite a number of companies reputed to be doing over 100m “pageviews” (canvas views) per month, including iLike, Flixster, Rockyou, Slide, Texas Holdem, HotOrNot, and others. [disclaimer – Rockyou and Flixster are Lightspeed portfolio companies]. The companies with a lot of installed facebook apps are all already pursuing engagement, even before Facebook’s change in the application directory. It’s in their business interest to do so.
In comparison, Myspace is still primarily about self expression. Click through rates from widgets on Myspace are dramatically lower than on Facebook apps. And more importantly, when a user clicks through on a Mypsace widget, they stay for less pageviews than a Facebook app. Because the interaction takes place off site (off Myspace’s site) and because there is no access to the social map, the primary activity is for a new user to create their own widget. There is limited ability for a user to interact with an existing widget because there is such a low level of shared data between the widget and Myspace.
Facebook has only a third the pageviews and UU of Myspace in the US. All else equal, you would expect all of the the top Myspace add-on sites according to Mashable to have over 100m PV/month if Facebook has already been able to generate so many at that scale:
Given the striking difference in engagement levels, its not surprising that all the other social networks are considering a platform strategy of their own.