What can Facebook do for you, and what you can do for Facebook?

I’ve been looking at the Facebook Developers site, and having thought about it a bit, I can see a lot of potential there. What drew me there in the first place was the Facebook-based game Scrabulous. I’ve been playing it quite a bit, and I was wondering how they might add to it. I was interested in setting up a league of fellow players, and wanted somewhere I could record the results. So I started looking at how this might be possible.

What occurs to me at first is that in terms of games, and possibly other applications as well, it shares several elements with the wonderful Xbox Live Arcade. You have a friends list, you can challenge those friends to games, you can suggest new games they might like to play against you, and you can compare your scores with them, and indeed with the best players out there. The scores in particular are a meta level that wraps around ordinary gaming, drives people to play and use the application more. I’ve seen a whole raft of friends get very involved in Scrabulous, many of whom are not computer “games players” at all.

You then get other possibilities, they have a donation advert built into the game, and there is also a service to listen to music as you play. These are the sort of things that are crying out for other sites, developers and artists to take advantage of. Got an album to promote? Build a small flash game, stick some tracks from the new album in as the soundtrack, and sit back and let Facebook’s users promote it for you. The News Feed that everyone has at the top centre of their home page shows (in the main) when and what applications their friends are using. The applications get spread and popularised in a viral fashion. It is in this way that Scrabulous has built up over 350,000 users.

It’s worth thinking of how your site could use Facebook. Maybe it’s just a Facebook group you want, somewhere your users can talk about you. Or it could be that there is an application that you promote at present you could adapt for Facebook. Or even that you could build one to promote your site in some manner.

What does Facebook get out of this? Well for one, they keep people on their site longer. Another benefit though, is that they are building up a massive body of developers creating ways of interacting with their site. They get all their API code tested on a large scale far beyond what they could ever do internally, and they also get the benefit of being able to mirror for themselves creative and successful uses of their site. For instance, they could choose to license Scrabble directly from its owners, mimic all the work of Scrabulous, and then build it into everyone’s profiles when they are created. Suddenly they cut out the middle man, and can potentially claim more traffic and advertising revenue for themselves.

I’m not suggesting that they would necessarily be this evil, but they do get a great benefit from all the 3rd party creative and development work being done for them. Of course this is a benefit that can come from an API in general, but it is rare you see it being utilised by both developers and users on such a large scale. It will be interesting to see what it produces over the next year.

Read The Next Age of Facebook.