For some of those developers, the applications have become viable businesses. Companies drawing large numbers of users to the Facebook web pages associated with their applications are able to sell advertising or even goods or services there. For others, the applications are helping to raise their profile and user ranks of existing operations.
But many more have tried and failed, unable to gain or keep a following. Creating catchy applications is becoming more challenging as the number of applications vying for users’ attention grows and their sophistication increases. Meanwhile, some early tactics used to gain wide reach are being eliminated by Facebook because their intrusiveness drew complaints.
“Entrepreneurs need to ask themselves, ‘What is the problem I’m trying to solve? What is the need I’m trying to address?’ ” says Ben Ling, director of platform marketing at Facebook. “The Facebook platform is not a magic platform and you can plug in anything and it will be successful. It doesn’t make something that’s not useful, useful.”
The top 1 percent of applications accounted for two-thirds of all application activity in the nine months since Facebook introduced the platform, according to a study of Facebook applications published in March by O’Reilly Media Inc., a technology-focused publishing company in Sebastopol, California. And only 200 applications hosted more than 10,000 users a day. About 60 percent of applications failed to attract even 100 daily users.