There appears to be evidence that Facebook users are beginning to suffer from app fatigue, and there is growing discontent about how applications are being distributed and about the amount of noise that the application platform has introduced into the Facebook ecosystem. As Mark Glaser writes on the PBS MediaShift blog, Facebook has a growing trust problem. Further, new numbers suggest that fed up users might have had enough of some of the most popular Facebook apps. This, however, could be a good thing for users and for the health of the platform in the long run.

Glaser talks about how he used to be excited when he received a notification of a new action on Facebook -- a poke, a wall post, a message -- but more recently, all that has changed. "Now, my reaction to getting the same kinds of notifications has changed, and I dread clicking through to see what kind of spam or scam is coming my way," he writes.

What happened? Well, for one, the Facebook platform happened. The Facebook platform allowed application developers to flood the site with applications, both useful and not (by many accounts, mostly not), and because of the way it is set up, app developers were able to encourage, and sometimes force or trick, users into sending out mass invites, notifications, or new feed announcements about often times trivial matters. This increased the noise on the Facebook network ten fold, and decreased the enjoyment of the social networks for some people.

Users, though, are beginning to push back. In just over a month, more than 65,000 people have joined the No, I will NOT invite 20 friends just to add your application! group, which has spun off an ancillary group that catalogues the applications that require users to invite friends before even using the app. And over 4,200 people have signed a petition calling on Facebook to step in and stop developers from using the "forced invite" tactic to grow their apps virally.

Further, blogger Alex Saunders points to recent statistics from Adonomics that indicate that the top Facebook apps have recently seen significant dips in the number of active users. "All of the top 10 leaderboard applications have seen substantial drops in daily users since peaking in November and December," writes Saunders. The chart below is from his site:

  Peak Today
Funwall 5800 2500
Superwall 4800 1800
Top Friends 2900 2200
Likeness 821 181
Super poke 1500 500
Movies 814 500
Compare People 1000 471
iLike 941 372
Causes 469 110
Superlatives 320 110
  All figures in 1,000s  

It is important to note that not all (if any) of these applications employ forced invites or tricky user invite schemes. Nonetheless, the drop in active users is telling, and is perhaps indicative of a Facebook populace that is beginning to get fed up with application noise or is getting tired of applications in general. It is certainly possible that the novelty has begun to wear off, and users are no longer interested in trying every hot new app under the sun, and have grown weary of some of the apps they were once so fond of.

One of the most annoying apps on Facebook -- at least in my opinion -- "Pirates vs. Ninjas," is way down off its November peak as well, according to Adonomics. What would make an app slide from over 165,000 daily users to 24,000 in just a couple of months? It's hard to say, but perhaps users have begun to grow tired of noveltly apps that don't do much else except spam their friends with invites to join the application.

App Fatigue: A Good Thing?

I wrote earlier that users suffering from app fatigue and pushing back against apps that employ sneaky invite schemes to grow is a good thing, and I think it probably is. Assuming Facebook steps in and imposes stricter invite rules -- which they should, applications will need to find different ways to spread virally. If people are simultaneously beginning to suffer from app fatigue (or app apathy -- appathy?), there is really only one sure fire way to get apps to spread virally: make better applications!

There are now 15,422 apps on the Facebook platform -- how many of them are truly useful? Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the novelty has worn off and users are finally starting to demand more of the applications they install. As Alex Saunders writes, "Developers of Facebook applications, however, have reached a watershed that demands a focus on delivering utility and value rather than thinly disguised advertising vehicles."

What do you think? Are you suffering from Facebook app fatigue? Do you think Facebook should step in and tighten invite rules for developers? Sound off in the comments below.