Home Finally: Facebook Silences App Notification Spam

Finally: Facebook Silences App Notification Spam

Facebook is about to become a quieter, less annoying place for users. The company just announced that it has deprecated “application notifications” and will require apps to use other, less intrusive methods of sending news to users. It’s a big step in the ongoing anti-MySpace-ification of Facebook. Though to be fair, MySpace recently instituted something similar. Now your “notifications” section on Facebook will just be for things like comments left on your posts.

It’s a good move that puts the interests of users ahead of short-term benefits for app developers and monetization. That’s in everyone’s best interests in the long term.

Facebook has done a delicate dance with application developers for years: the more your users click through notifications about your application, the more notifications you’re allowed to send. Many developers would like to notify all users of anything, at any and all opportunities, because those notifications drive traffic. Facebook has sided with users in this equation, though, and today just threw the whole dance out of the spotlight and into a designated and less central part of the user experience.

Developers were recently given permission to ask app users for their email addresses, which they can use to email app notifications directly. (Granted, that could get annoying too, but at least it’s opt-in.) The creation of a special Applications and Games Dashboard offers another place for app notifications to be delivered.

Some developers may complain that they are being further pushed out of users’ line of sight with this decision. Facebook is most likely to respond like this: build a good app that people will use and share by choice and you’ll be just fine.

It’s unclear whether this will affect the Facebook Newsfeed, but the algorithmic method behind selection of which notifications to publish to the newsfeed and in what order is so central to the Facebook experience that the company was issued a controversial patent for it yesterday. As the newsfeed paradigm takes over the whole web, though, figuring out how to balance human with automated signals, and communication with marketing in the stream, is no trivial matter. These are the decisions upon which the future of the social web is being built.

At first blush, this looks like a good UX design decision that will improve the way everyone using Facebook feels about the site. Look for the change to go into effect on Monday.

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