The State Of The Facebook Platform Post-Notifications

-Platform Icon-It’s no secret that when Facebook removed notifications from the platform, many application developers proclaimed that Facebook had effectively killed all virality. While some developers have stated that they still have found growth through the newsfeed, a large portion of developers and investors in this space feel as though the rug was pulled out from under them. We decided to do some further analysis on the overall impact of the removal of notifications and here’s what we found out.

The Platform Peaks

On March 1st, the day Facebook pulled notifications, the average daily active users level for applications on the Facebook Platform was approximately 3,800. The average monthly active users for any given application on the same day was 26,950. Almost three weeks later, on March 18th, the Platform peaked. The average daily active users level was 4,537 and the average monthly active users was 28,986.

A Turn For The Worse

So how are things looking three months after Facebook pulled the notifications? Not great. Today, the average daily active users level on the Platform is 3,491, down 23 percent since the peak. Average monthly active users are down to 22,789, down more than 21 percent since the peak. Is this surprising news? Not really. Some of the top applications have seen much more dramatic hits.

FarmVille, for example, has seen its monthly active users drop 16 percent from the peak. More significant is that daily active users, the primary measurement of an application’s ability to monetize, has dropped upwards of 38 percent since its peak, reaching 19.4 million daily active users yesterday. That’s down from a peak of 31.6 million daily active users on March 31st.

Causes, one of the primary bellwethers for the Facebook Platform since inception, was able to hold on to traffic a little bit longer, but has since seen a dramatic fall-off in the past three weeks, with monthly active users falling over 16 weeks during that period. Between May 3rd and May 17th, Causes saw it’s daily active user base almost cut in half, although it has since regained some of its traffic, now reaching just over 1 million daily active users.

The Past 3 Weeks Have Been Brutal

Causes highlights a more important trends which is that the past few weeks have been brutal for application developers. Facebook even temporarily halted the public reporting of monthly active users for an unknown reason. Developers that we’ve spoken to suggested that the continued drop in users was a result of Facebook’s new stream policies announced toward the end of March.

Here are the three primary changes:

  • When asking users to publish a Feed story, do not use a friend selector or other means to select more than one friend at a time:
    “You must not provide users with the option to publish the same Feed story to more than one friend’s Wall at a time.” (DPP VI.A.2)
  • Let users do the tagging:
    “You can tag a photo only with the express consent of the user on whose behalf you are doing the tagging, and must only tag images when the tag accurately labels what is depicted in the image.” (DPP V.13)
    Photo tagging should be used to tag a photo of the real individual in a real photo, and must not be used in collages, with avatars, or for marketing or promotional purposes.
  • Allow users to initiate and consent to publishing:
    “You must not publish a Feed story unless a user has explicitly indicated an intention to share that content, by clicking a button or checking a box that clearly explains their content will be shared.” (DPP VI.A.1)

Facebook has been cutting down on a number of viral tactics and as a result traffic has dropped dramatically. We’re currently trying to find out if there are any other changes that were the source of the recent drops in traffic.

Moving Forward

Facebook has made significant changes in the past which negatively affected application developers and in most instances developers were able to figure out new ways to sustain growth. For the first time ever, developers have sat through what is essentially a 5 month lull in growth and while many are trying to be optimistic about the future, Facebook has not made any signals to developers that would suggest imminent changes to restore the health of the Platform to pre-notification levels.

Instead, it appears as though developers will be forced to operate within a new environment under which new applications need large ad buys to attract users, and retaining users is much more challenging. While Facebook is comparatively cheap for launching applications (in contrast to standalone websites), the cost gap between Facebook and the general web continues to close.

We’ll have to wait and see if Facebook decides to bring back new viral channels to the Facebook Platform or if they are satisfied with the Platform as it currently exists.

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