Fight Application Spam 

An Open Letter to MySpace, hi5, Orkut and all OpenSocial Websites 

To MySpace, hi5, Orkut and all other OpenSocial websites:

I am writing this letter from the perspective of a social network user, even though I am also a developer. As you know, Facebook recently created a platform allowing 3rd party developers to place applications within Facebook. Unfortunately, Facebook users are now inundated with invitation Spam and messages from these applications. Application Spam is ruining the user experience. As you prepare to launch your own OpenSocial application platforms, please keep the user experience as your first priority. I encourage you to do everything you can to eliminate application Spam.

The first priority of many social network application developers is to obtain as many users as possible, even if achieving this goal results in a miserable user experience. Many Facebook applications use deceptive wording and layouts to trick users into inviting friends to install the applications. Another common tactic is to require users to send invitation Spam to a certain number of friends before they can use a certain feature of the application.

These dirty viral tactics result in a flood of Spam and cultivate an atmosphere of user distrust against applications. Application developers have proven they cannot be trusted with the power to send invitations. The OpenSocial API defines functions that allow applications to send messages and invitations to users. These functions will result in overwhelming amounts of Spam, just as we have seen on Facebook. Fortunately, the API states that websites do not have to support these functions. I encourage all OpenSocial websites not to implement these functions.

These messaging functions are not needed. Messaging functionality is already built-in to all social networking platforms. If a user wants to send a friend a message about an application, they can initiate the action themselves by using the standard user messaging features of the website. Users don't need 3rd party application developers initiating messages on their behalf. Social networking sites should focus on connecting friends, not on connecting application spammers to friends.

There are dozens of Facebook groups dedicated to complaints about application Spam. For example, this group encourages eliminating the application invitation system and has almost half a million members. I don't see very many user groups begging for more application Spam.

Fight Spam. Protect your users.

Thank You,
A Concerned User