Facebook Tests New Application Notifications

In what could be a huge win for application developers, Facebook has begun a short-term test to see how users react to notifications of application requests. It’s a small step that could have a huge impact on the platform.

Since first killing off notifications earlier this year, the noise from applications has dropped significantly. While most users have applauded the shift, application developers immediately felt the impact, watching application growth dissipate. Then on Friday afternoon, Facebook made a significant announcement:

Games and applications are core to many people’s experience on Facebook, which is why we’re constantly working to improve how people discover, engage and interact with them. As you may have noticed, we’re testing surfacing new requests in the notification channel to drive engagement and discovery. We are measuring the impact of this short-term test to see if it’s something that users enjoy, and we’ll continue to iterate on ways for people to find games and applications.

There’s no doubt that developers are practically drooling at the opportunity to regain access to the notifications given that requests, for the most part, have been relegated to non-prominent areas. Right now there are two primary reengagement and acquisition channels: counters (in the left-hand navigation) and application discovery stories. Application requests however, haven’t really been that useful for a long-time now. All that could change, if Facebook decides to surface requests, as pictured in the following image:

Application Notifications

User retention could be bolstered dramatically, and more importantly: new user acquisition could jump. The only thing left unanswered is: how will users respond to the changes? So far, we’ve heard of a decent number of users complaining, however those complaints have not been widespread. For now we’ll have to wait and see, but Facebook has historically opted in favor of changes which “improve the user experience”. Whether or not this new functionality improves the overall experience is left unanswered.

What do you think of Facebook’s decision to restore limited notifications from applications? Do you think it helps you find valuable applications, or does it make things to noisy?

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