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posts during 2007

Facebook’s First Sponsored Gift

As I was about to go to bed, I refreshed my Facebook newsfeed/homepage and happened to catch that today’s gift is free. What?! They finally caved in and made gifts free? No. They’ve allowed their first commercial “gift” to penetrate the cheerful bunch of furry creatures, birthday wishes, and pop culture references, and even make it very clear why the gift is free: “The Skittles Gum gift is FREE to promote Skittles New Gum.”

While I’m sure it was quite expensive for this deal to take place, I guess we can expect similar items in the future. It will go nicely with the 2 sponsored polls in the last week I’ve had take up significant real estate in my newsfeed asking whether I would like to purchase a book on how to seduce women. (I’m guessing they are using polls to advertise because they can specify target audiences, unlike with flyers. Plus, people actually have to notice the polls.)

While advertisements creeping into Facebook’s core features is nothing new, as best I can tell at this late hour, this will be the first time they’ve allowed it to appear in users’ profile pages. (Obviously not including applications.) I hope next month they’ll introduce sponsored applications that are automatically added when you join Facebook, or better yet, interstitial ads.

Building Software at the Scale of the Web

Last semester I took a course in which there was a speaker from the corporate IT world every class (once a week) who talked about the various IT processes at his/her company. One night after (or possibly during?) a particularly uninteresting speaker, I jokingly asked shaver if he wanted to come speak. Fast forward 6 months to Thursday, when shaver arrived in New Orleans from London, drove here to Baton Rouge, and had a rental car tire blowout that almost caused him to miss his first talk. Maybe he’ll post pictures.

The first talk was to a technology club – the LSU chapter of Association of Information Technology Professionals. I was really surprised at some of the questions that were asked – I had no idea that people around here would care about Mozilla’s thoughts on mobile, Silverlight, or have heard of the “10 days” incident.

Immediately following that was the main talk to the Management of Information Resources class, a business elective of somewhere between 150-200 people. Shaver started off asking how many people use Firefox. I was very surprised when what looked to be about half the room raised their hands, and I’m sure after his talk, the rest of the people went home to try it out.

The next day I saw some of the Firefox buttons we gave out on a few backpacks. The talks were awesome, so big thanks to shaver for taking the time to venture down here before he’s grounded for a bit.

Rock Your Firefox 0.4 Launched

The latest version of Rock Your Firefox, Mozilla’s Facebook application, went live this morning. There are two exciting new features in it:

Automatic Add-on Detection

When adding the application, users will now have the option to detect the add-ons they already have installed in Firefox and add them as favorites. Existing users can do this from the sidebar of the homepage. Anytime new add-ons are installed, you can re-scan to detect the changes.

New Homepage with Newsfeed

Instead of going directly to the Browse area when using the application, there is now a homepage with a list of recent add-on activity such as new versions of your favorite add-ons, favorite additions by your friends, and recommendations based on your friends’ favorites. The sidebar has several sections, some of which will not always be visible.

Check out version 0.4 at rockyourfirefox.com! The next release is planned for the end of September.

Upcoming Facebook Platform Changes

Tonight, Facebook announced some upcoming changes to their platform. I wanted to comment about how they will affect Rock Your Firefox.

  • Profile box visibility changes – This affected our default text shown before a user adds any favorites, but has already been fixed. Developers were previously told they had 10 days to adjust this, however that deadline has now been extended.
  • Application Directory metrics shift to user engagement – I imagine this could only be better for us, as our statistics show that most of our users check back with the application every day. [Aside: We have fought with a similar problem on AMO of gaging popularity of add-ons based on raw download counts: People try to game the system to get into the top 5, which then gets them in for a long time as people will download anything in the top 5 without much consideration and then uninstall it. We will have new statistics to gage this by soon, including active user counts and "favorite" counts from both Facebook and AMO, which provide a much better idea of which add-ons people actually use and like.]
  • Requests/Invitations deprecation – Rock Your Firefox does not allow users to send invitations to other users. A large part of that is because I expected this to happen. Application invitations are too spammy, and I didn’t think they would last long, especially with some applications abusing them by sending when the user didn’t even select friends to invite. Facebook stated that a standard tool for this will be offered, which is exciting, as we get the functionality but not the wasted time on development of the soon-to-be-deprecated system.
  • No more e-mail notifications – Does not affect Rock Your Firefox.
  • Newsfeed stories for everyone – As an application developer, this is very exciting. Currently, newsfeed stories generated by applications are only seen by friends that also have the application added. The only newsfeed story that has a chance of attracting new users is the generic “Foxkeh has added the Rock Your Firefox application.” If all stories have a chance of being seen, we can generate a lot more interest from users that don’t know about add-ons or don’t even know about Firefox. As a Facebook user, I really hope they have good controls so that if I don’t want to constantly see someone superfeeding their pet gift that grows into a map of places you’ve been, I don’t have to.
  • Join Facebook with an application already added – Earlier this month, Facebook posted that they are working on a feature to allow users to sign up and immediately start using an application. As we have been promoting the rockyourfirefox.com URL and I suspect that several community members joined Facebook just to see the application, this will be helpful.

Overall, these changes are great for us, but I’m sure they are quite unfortunate for other applications that use functionality that will now be removed. Rock Your Firefox 0.4 is scheduled to release this Friday with two awesome new features, which I’ll blog about once they’re live.

A Comparison

I was reading a post about it being Facebook Platform’s 3 month anniversary and decided to do a little comparison.

  Firefox Add-ons Facebook Platform
* Only considers add-ons hosted on addons.mozilla.org; there are many add-ons hosted by their individual developers not taken into account.
User base 75-100 million[1] 30 million[2]
New Downloads/Users per day 500,000[3] 100,000+[4]
Age 5 years 3 months
Available Locales 40+ 1
Open Source Yes Not on purpose
Extensibility Complete Restricted
API Stability Stable within major releases Constantly changing, often with little warning
Community Gatherings Developer Days Developer Garages
Corporate Involvement Yes (AllPeers, StumbleUpon, etc) Yes (Slide, RockYou, etc)
Number of add-ons/applications in directory 2500 public; 1300 sandbox* 3300[5]
Number of developers 3175* Unknown
Add-ons/applications with over 1 million active users 40+* 46[6]
Google News articles in the last month 55 501
Bug reporting Completely open Completely internal
Overlap Rock Your Firefox Facebook Toolbar