Facebook Making Changes to News Feed, Requests, Bookmarks to Promote Social Games — or Hide Them

In the latest of Facebook’s ongoing efforts to reshape its developer platform, it is introducing big changes aimed at the most successful category of third-party applications to-date: social games and related applications.

Overall, the changes could hurt virality for many developers, even if they see increased engagement; Facebook also says that there is more help on the way to social game developers in the coming months, including a revamped infrastructure and new APIs.

Most importantly out of all the of the changes today, the company is altering how the news feed will work.

After the changes take effect, people who do not play games will no longer see news feed application stories from friends who do play games — same goes for any other third-party app. Because news feed stories were a main way that people found games in the first place, we expect app virality to decrease as a result of this change. Facebook is clear about its rationale behind this: “Tens of millions of app wall posts are deleted every day by people who find them irrelevant. By surfacing relevant stories based on usage and discovery stories based on friends, we believe we’re providing the best user experience and building lasting and long term value.”

Facebook no doubt knows about this, and it has a couple other news feed changes rolling out designed to increase user engagement with apps. A change earlier this year grouped all stories from an application into a collapsed, aggregated view — a move that many developers have complained hurt their ability to reach their users. Now, Facebook is making it so that no gaming apps have collapsed stories. Note that this benefit only applies to apps that are self-designated as “games” on the platform. So the company is policing these identifications and booting out developers who abuse the setting.

Also, Facebook is going to be introducing some new kinds of stories about games. So if at least a handful of your friends start playing a game but you don’t, you’ll see a story saying exactly that. This is intended to help maintain some virality despite the overall app story reduction. We’ll have more details on how and when this happens exactly as it becomes available.

Invites and other application requests, which Facebook said it was going to remove current access to during its developer roadmap presentation last October, are now gone from the right-hand column of the home page. Instead, they’re appearing as a line within the left-hand navigation column. This less obvious real estate should also hurt growth. Facebook is also adding a Retraction API, so that developers can present all of the requests for a user within the game UI, instead of driving users back to the requests list to accept more gifts, etc. Facebook is also loosening its policies around the copy that developers can place on action item buttons, like “Reply” or “Send Gift” – something that should make for more natural user experiences.

Finally, there are other changes coming to the left-hand side of the home page. Facebook is automatically bookmarking apps that you use, sorting them based on your usage in the last 30 days. Apps in the “More” list (not shown by default) will get a summed counter as well. It is also making the Games Dashboard somewhat more prominent in the left-hand column, showing it to all users automatically, including any new user. It is adding a new look for counters as well.

Facebook has told us that is wants to foster more social gaming growth on its platform, following its removal of third party notifications and other significant changes earlier this year. Nevertheless, today’s changes look like another viral pruning, in the eyes of many developers. The company has created an official Games team recently, though and with the infrastructure and API plans in the works, it could introduce changes that help social games grow more virally — even as it tries to make sure that this is not damaging its overall product.

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Leave a Reply

21 Responses to “Facebook Making Changes to News Feed, Requests, Bookmarks to Promote Social Games — or Hide Them”

  1. Facebook Making Big Changes to Discovery, Virality in Games Today says:

    [...] event on Inside Facebook, so head over there if you want the stream. We’ve also written up a full preview on Inside Facebook (excepted below); for more on the changes, check back later for more [...]

  2. Rick says:

    This kills game developers on FB.

    Virality on FB exists no more – the only way to grow your game is through ads.
    Congrats FB for killing your most succesful app market.

    Hope Google and MySpace will seize this opportunity.

  3. Leonard says:

    Thanks Eric, no other site had actually analyzed this and provided a perspective other than the company pr.

  4. Dex says:

    Wall posts was a great way to promote games. This doesn’t look good for game developers. If they can quickly implement another great idea for app developers, then it can still be successful. Otherwise, you just left a loophole for Google and Myspace..

  5. MK says:

    how is the left plan less obvious real estate? jeez, i think fb made all the right moves here. I hope i stop getting that annoying share pop up everytime i step on a weed in a game now.

  6. MK says:

    Correction – pane , not plan

    how is the left pane less obvious real estate? jeez, i think fb made all the right moves here. I hope i stop getting that annoying share pop up everytime i step on a weed in a game now.

  7. Following Facebook’s Most Recent Changes, Developers Worry About Virality says:

    [...] changes can be boiled down to six major points (further explained in our earlier post and live [...]

  8. essay_writing says:

    Thank you for the post. I can’t make any statements from the developer’s point of view but I think if the game is worth playing, it will reach its audience. And if you position yourself as a game developer, you may think of investing some $10-$100 into advertising.
    Being a FB user, I am glad they removed some dozens of ads on my newsfeed. They still need to work a lot on delivering to the user only what they want to see, and this is definitely a step forward.

  9. Anatoly Ropotov says:

    Here’s my take on what is the actual impact:


  10. Teasastips says:

    Amazing. I don’t know how to feel about this. The invites to play games with my friends didn’t annoy me, but it just gave me an idea of the popularity of certain games; and as a developer I was able to use this free market research as a tool to develop more apps that people actually wanted. However, Facebook has listened to its users and as a result, I’m sure MySpace or Hi5 isn’t doing the same thing.

  11. MediaPost Raw » Blog Archive » Facebook Hones Feeds (At Developers’ Expense?) says:

    [...] feeds from friends who do play games. Good news for non-gamers. Bad news for game developers, says Inside Facebook. “Overall, the changes could hurt virality for many developers, even if they see increased [...]

  12. Facebook Announces Changes to News Feed, Game Requests and Bookmarks | Frisky Mongoose says:

    [...] (both in gift requests and news feed notifications), the way bookmarks are organized, and more. Inside Facebook was there, and have given us a detailed overview of what to expect from these [...]

  13. Alen says:

    Personally, I couldn’t care less. I hated those game related posts in the news feed, but I had them all blocked so it wasn’t a big deal to me. What they need to do is return to the previous (before nov, 2009) privacy settings for new feed and wall posts. That way there wouldn’t be so much crap floating around our news feed.

  14. alstin communications » Interested in taking your Facebook page to the next recruitment level? says:

    [...] so much changing within Facebook, it’s often hard to keep up with the fast pace. However, if you focus on what you [...]

  15. Muthuu says:

    Does the changes only apply to games and also can user explicitly request to receive updates from an app?

  16. astrogirl says:

    “people who do not play games will no longer see news feed application stories from friends who do play games ”

    This might be how it is supposed to work, but some of us who DO play games have lost the news feed application stories from game players. I don’t know what they broke when they made the change but I wish they would fix it. The only reason I have a facebook is to play the games but all I see now on my news feed are people’s regular news updates and no game stories. I don’t even see my own game stories!

  17. DrewryNewsNetwork says:

    It would be nice if there was an online worldwide announcement about when Facebook updates, and they can post it themselves.

  18. Jessica says:

    I am a game developer, but I’m first and foremost a Facebook user. I was concerned because I can no longer hide game spam, but if it’s because Facebook is making changes to automatically hide it from me, I say they can’t do it too soon.

    If your game requires its players to automatically spam their friends in order to succeed, it deserves to die. (Hello, Zynga!) If a game is fun, people will talk about it on their own (which is how non-predatory viral marketing works). If it’s not fun enough that people want to recommend it without the game forcing them to show their game activities on their wall, it doesn’t deserve to succeed.

  19. Erwin says:

    I wil lern how to make facebook games

  20. Adventures in Orange and Gray » Blog Archive » Viral Marketing: Quit Whining, Facebook “Game” Developers says:

    [...] Inside Face­book pro­vides a fairly objec­tive dis­cus­sion of the changes and how they’ll impact users and developers.  [...]

  21. Facebook Testing Home Page Design That Keeps Ads and Bookmarks Visible as You Scroll - Hamro Pathshala (हाम्रो पाठशाला) says:

    [...] be visible to users for longer, encouraging more return visits to games and apps. Facebook has made several changes to the bookmark and request systems this past year which may have hurt app user retention. Facebook could offset drops in retention and [...]

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