Facebook throttling the last viral channel

Up until today, there was still one viral channel left on Facebook that allowed your applications to grow organically: the wall posts.

Today Facebook cracked down on it as explained in their developer blog.

The consequences are amazing as you can see the overnight 50% drop in DAUs for quiz applications that relied heavily on wall posts like Social Interview (graphs courtesy of developeranalytics.com):
Social Interview DAUs down 50 percent

So from a canvas application you can still publish stories to walls, but you now have to ask the user each and every time to confirm with the “Publish this story to your friend’s Facebook Wall?” popup like this one:

Before you could let the user choose not to have this popup every time they want to post something on a wall by using the Facebook.showPermissionDialog() javascript call…:

Facebook.showPermissionDialog('publish_stream', callback);

function callback (perms) {
  if (!perms) {
    message('You did not grant the special permission to post to friends wall without being prompted.');
  } else {
    message('You can now publish to walls without being prompted.');

… that would prompt for your permission to, hem, not be prompted when publishing a story to a wall (“Allow {Application X} to publish posts or comments without prompting me.”):

Once you had this permission granted by your user, you could just call streamPublish() with the auto_publish parameter set to true to avoid the popup:

Facebook.streamPublish(null, attachment, actionLinks, target_id, "Add a personal message", callback, true);

In practice it didn’t quite work because even though the language in the permission dialog is clear that you would not see any popup anymore, you would still either:
- get the popup all the time (and that was a Facebook bug)
- or reach a throttling limit (streamPublish() would return “Feed action request limit reached”) and would not be able to post anymore.

Facebook is very obscure on what the limits are, contrary to the requests limits which you can see from the Statistics of your application in the Developer app (tab “Allocations”).

So you had to use a trick to circumvent this throttling by asking for a totally unrelated permission: the Offline permission.

Facebook.showPermissionDialog('offline_access', callback);

That would ask the user for yet another permission using the “Allow Constant Authorization.” popup:

This workaround worked well until today, as you now get a lot more “Feed action request limit reached” errors.
So much more that Facebook added an extra tab in the Statistics of your application called “API Errors”:

What’s remaining now for virality on Facebook?
- the notifications are gone
- the invites are throttled in an obscure way so you never see your allocation of invites per user per day go up
- the wallposts are throttled
- … but you now have access to users emails!

This is a clear move from Facebook to capture more revenues by forcing developers to buy ads from them.

The true organic virality is gone, unless developers become spammers and start hammering the email addresses of Facebook users.
This will happen unfortunately, and users will just opt-out, so it’s a short lived solution.

Is it time to move back to MySpace?

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One Response to “Facebook throttling the last viral channel”

  1. Neil says:

    Very, very interesting and insightful post. I was researching on what works or is allowed by facebook when it comes to an app, and was quite appalled that with the latest features, the invites are literally shelved to the side of the screen. Besides, if I’m right one of the main reasons facebook prevents people from posting the same result on multiple walls is that it makes the user “spammy”. I agree with them on a few points. A lot of developers are witty enough to trick users into making their app viral (inorganically at core, but organically on surface). But I did notice over research from the past day, that two extremely viral apps were immediately removed (they were becoming viral because they ignored these TOS conditions). I saw two apps get banned in 24 hours! But I agree with you, everything is limited. It’s just a period of time until people get bored of what can really be done on facebook and move someplace else.