Facebook Will Start Offering Paid Apps, Beta Program Is Taking Sign-Ups Now

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App Discovery By Quality, Not Popularity: Facebook Announces App Center For Web, iOS, Android, HTML5, Pre-Paid

Facebook’s platform may have come to life on the back of freemium apps, but now it’s taking another page from Apple’s playbook by offering paid apps. A beta program starting now will let developers charge Facebook users a flat fee to use their apps. This will cover both HTML5 apps and apps on the canvas (meaning on Facebook.com).

This was part of a bigger announcement today, in which Facebook gave a sneak peek at a new “App Center,” which is kind of like an app store. It’s very different from the iTunes store in that there aren’t rankings by popularity. App recommendations are personalized and social. Josh Constine is doing a full feature-by-feature take on the new app center here.

Here’s the excerpt from Facebook’s post:

Many developers have been successful with in-app purchases, but to support more types of apps on Facebook.com, we will give developers the option to offer paid apps. This is a simple-to-implement payment feature that lets people pay a flat fee to use an app on Facebook.com. If you are interested in the beta program, please sign up to receive more information.

This could make it easier for Facebook to break into other categories outside gaming. Facebook’s chief financial officer David Ebersman reiterated in the company’s IPO roadshow video that the company is looking to support payments for other types of apps outside of games. They’re also considering lowering the standard 30 percent revenue share that they charge developers for apps that aren’t games and that have higher operating costs (which we reported on first!)

In general, though, this move totally goes against the major trend of the last year and a half — which is to move away from paid apps and toward freemium ones. Even if you look at iOS’ top grossing list today, about 80 percent of the top 25 apps are free.

If Facebook can get some developers to offer really interesting paid apps, then it will be able to get the number of paying users up. In 2011, only 15 million out of the company’s then 845 million monthly active users paid with Credits, according to Facebook’s IPO filing.