[This is cross-posted at our ImpactWatch site]

The overly popular Facebook social network has recently seen a surge of ‘applications' added to its roster.  Users hoping to enhance the experience of the social platform create these applications.  As of January 2008, there are over 14,000 applications in circulation among users.  The uses of these applications range widely; in July 2007, the first Facebook-only venture capital firm (Altura 1 Facebook Investment Fund) was released to the public.  They have gotten so popular that Stanford University recently debuted a class where the end product is Facebook application.  The great success of this class most likely means that many more schools will soon follow suit, offering more classes on social network metrics and creation.

These applications are not without their criticisms.  Many users voiced opposition when they were first established because they felt that the applications would clutter the very streamlined Facebook profile design, making it more akin to a MySpace style page.  Others complain of the sheer number of available applications.  Many of these are deemed to be pointless or copies of pre-existing applications.  Another common complaint is the way in which they have to be added.  For example, to use the application titled Bumper Sticker, you have to install the application within your profile to be able to view a ‘sticker' that is sent to you by another user.  This process ends with a user having applications that are rarely used by them, but cluttering up what is otherwise known as a clean interface.

I decided to do some research using my networked profiles to discover in what ways and in what capacity people were using these controversial applications.  My study used 300 of my ‘friends' profiles.  I simply took the list of all of their profiles and analyzed every other one until the number totaled 300.  This helped eliminate any bias that I may have shown towards certain types of people.

I outlined the criteria for the study before viewing a single profile in an attempt to make the study as ‘blind' as possible.  I divided the criteria into four questions, which I ranked.

The first question asked how many Facebook applications the user had in his or her profile.  The selections were 0, 1-2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9+.  This category counted only applications created by users, not Facebook applications that come with the standard profile setup.  Specifically, the following applications were NOT included: Newsfeed, Wall, Photos, Gifts, Marketplace, Pokes, Status, Events, and Video.

The second question was which type of functionality was most prevalent in their applications.  The categories under which the applications could fall were Extended Use, Online Games, Hug Applications, and Outside Applications.  Applications under Extended Use expand the usability of the standard applications, like the Super Wall.  Online Games, such as Scrabulous, give users the ability to play turn-based games with other users.  Hug Applications grant the user the ability to send more personal messages and ‘gifts' to other users.  Finally, Outside Applications promote an outside media, such as a charity, television show, or computer program like Skype.

The third part of the analysis is whether or not there has been a recent addition or deletion of an application.

The last question is whether or not the user has one of the ‘Top Ten' applications as sourced from Adonomics.com, a site that does some Facebook-related analysis.  The Top Ten applications are described in the following paragraph: 

Super Wall (or alternately, Fun Wall or Advanced Wall) lets the user have more wall functions.  Top Friends allows the user to select certain friends to always appear in their profile.  Hug Me adds more creative hug features.  Super Poke adds more poking verbs (i.e. John has just bodyslammed Chris).  Bumper Sticker lets the user gift witty graphics to other users.  iLike lets the user list movies, songs, etc. that they enjoy with graphics representing their selections.  Graffiti lets the user make drawings for other users using a Windows Paint-like tool.  Zombies adds more Zombie-specific hug features.  Scrabulous is a turn-based Scrabble clone for 2-4 players.  It is played over an extended period of time.  Quizzes allows the user to take multiple quizzes on various topics for fun.

The next post will contain all of my collected data from the analysis, as well as analytical graphs displaying my findings, creating using ImpactWatch.  I will then draw conclusions based on my research about the state of applications within the Facebook online world.