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Facebook Cracks Down On Third Party Apps

Software developers say that the social media site is disabling their apps, including Breakup Notifier and a poker game, without warning or clear explanation.

On Feb. 22, a developer known only as ekudler posted a query regarding the length of Facebook's appeal process, after his app was disabled for too many calls to stream.publish, ekudler said.

"...I don't think this was my fault since (I assume) it was in comparison to the number of people using the app, but the total users # is inaccurate since insights hasn't been updated since February 16th and the app didn't catch on until the 17th," wrote ekudler. "I really need help right now. my app was actually successful for a change and that is completely dependent on its virality, which I am losing every minute. Also I invested a lot of money into advertising and I don't want to lose it."

Earlier in February, an application written by a developer known as malfer was disabled because of stream.publish over-use, the app developer said.

Stream.publish is designed to reduce the risk of spam-like applications, according to Facebook.

"To ensure positive user experiences on Platform, we run routine automated screens that take user feedback, machine learning, and various algorithms into account and remove spammy applications," Facebook said. "For example, if an application is making an inordinate number of stream.publish calls and receiving a large number of user reports, it may be removed by our automated systems to protect the user experience and the Platform ecosystem."

Businesses in more than 190 countries build apps on Facebook Platform, according to Facebook, and users install more than 20 million applications per day, the company said. In addition, more than 250 million people use external Web sites to interact with Facebook, the social media site reported on its statistics page.

Taking Apple's Lead?

Like Apple, Facebook has written policies dictating terms -- both technological and non-tech -- that developers must adhere to. Although the regulations are detailed in its developer section, some app writers complain they still are uncertain why their software is disabled or banned, according to posts on the site's developer forum. In October, for example, Facebook barred several game developers for sharing user IDs with advertisers.

Credited with changing the mobile landscape with its App Store, Apple dominated the market it invented, although competitors such as Google were quick to follow. In April 2010, Apple changed its developer agreement, in part barring location-based targeting, third-party analytics, and the use of competitors' ad providers within applications. A few months earlier, the i-family maker purchased Quattro, creator of a mobile ad network, followed soon after by Apple's debut of its own in-application advertising product.

For its part, Facebook continues to add functionality to its core product -- the company's Facebook Places, for example, is similar in many ways to location products from Yelp and Foursquare.

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