O’Reilly research published a report Friday titled The Facebook Application Platform. The big revelation? Not many Facebook applications have a large audience. 84 of the over 5000 Facebook applications account for 87% of usage. The suggestion is that economic models for Facebook developers ALL depend on getting into that top echelon of applications.
The Facebook developer community has largely delivered "applications" which are essentially meaningless eye candy on this new platform. They spread quickly, but the only way to monetize these baubles is by advertising. As Tim O’Reilly notes:
This doesn’t mean that Facebook won’t become an important platform for developers, just that a throwaway Facebook app is not the ticket to quick riches. Embracing the Facebook opportunity requires more than just optimism.
Building businesses on Facebook will actually require (heaven forbid) meaningful marketing, market segmentations (yes Virginia, there is more than one segment of users on Facebook), real business models, and products that deliver value to users rather than simply collecting eyeballs.
As O’Reilly notes embedding the social graph into applications has huge potential. Today’s throwaway Facebook applications aren’t even scratching the surface.