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Think Big. Move Fast.

Inside Facebook has an interesting post about Facebook’s evolving approach to platform management. Justin notes that Slide’s Top Friends app has now been suspended for the platform for 5 days, the most serious punishment for any app so far. He notes that while initially Facebook tried to control app developer behavior with rules, it is now singling out ‘bad actors’ for direct punishment, as much to be a symbol to other developers as to punish the infringing app.

Earlier in the year, Facebook responded to abuse by outlawing the tool being abused (for example, in the case of forced invites). This would be akin to outlawing something like assault rifles that almost everyone agrees are harmful to society. However, in more complex cases, outlawing the tool at hand is not necessarily what’s best for the system. For example, removing APIs that access profile data from the Platform altogether because of one application’s privacy concerns would hurt the overall Platform economy significantly: many developers and users would be negatively impacted. This would be somewhat like outlawing kitchen knives because they were once used in a crime. Instead of removing knives from society, the better solution would be to hire a district attorney and set up a court system and bill of rights: news of verdicts and sentences would deter many future cases. Of course, that’s a very expensive proposition, and sufficient accountability must be enforced for stakeholders to have faith in the system.

As he summarizes:

Facebook’s approach to platform governance is becoming decreasingly dependent on algorithms and increasingly based on policy-enforcement.

This is the same approach that Myspace has followed since inception. This change in approach is an important sea change for app developers as it makes direct relationships with Facebook more important than previously. This will likely benefit the larger app developers over the smaller ones so ong as they are acting in a way that Facebook likes.