Here’s What The Facebook App Center Is Really About

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Chester Ng, co-founder and CMO of SweetLabs, makers of Pokki, an HTML5 app platform for the PC.

The tectonic plates in the app world have been shifting quite a bit lately, in ways that will significantly impact developers and users. One major upcoming shift is coming from our friends in Redmond–Windows 8– and yesterday, we witnessed another major shift as Facebook announced their new App Center.

After sleeping on it and reading dozens of generic blog posts about the announcement, this is what I think the Facebook App Center REALLY means (complete with lame taglines for your entertainment):

1. Throw a cat a bone. The dog has had enough to eat.

  • The App Center is Facebook’s response to the big dog, Zynga, who recently launched their own social game portal on Zynga.com. While Zynga.com is Facebook-friendly for now, the threat of independence hangs heavy in the air. 15% of Facebook’s Q1 revenues were tied to Zynga games. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the App Center is hedging and diversifying.
  • This is, combined with weapons like Open Graph, also about trying to help other “cats” (app and game developers) surface and thrive. The first battle in the social apps/games war is over, and Zynga won. But, as we know (and love), there is a plethora of creative talent out there ready to design, develop, and bring to market the next killer app/game. Facebook wants to make sure that happens within their walls.

2. All apps = social apps. Social apps = Facebook apps. So, all apps = Facebook apps?

  • VentureBeat fell for it, when describing App Center as “a place to find social web, desktop, and mobile apps — and not just Facebook apps.” Hook. Line. Sinker. The App Center guidelines clearly state that to be eligible, your app has to be on Facebook canvas or use Facebook login. But, it somehow doesn’t have to be “a Facebook app”? Riiiight. Let’s pull the hoodie up off our eyes. Facebook intends to turn every app into a Facebook app, an important step towards global domination. A million apps aren’t cool. You know what’s cool? A BILLION apps.
  • Now, that said, the Facebook App Center is theoretically more “open” and “friendly” to multiple devices than other app stores (iOS, Android, Metro). But it is not universal. This, to me, is further evidence that there is a real need… for an “Application System,” one that is not biased by any particular device, OS, browser, search engine, or social network. One that is all about the apps, not the walls around them.

3. Content is King. The King protects the walls.

  • The majority of content in my Facebook activity stream consists of random updates/links, photos, and content generated by apps (and games). Well, Facebook will always own a monopoly on random updates/links, and they just paid $1 billion to gain control of the photo faucet. So, apps (and games) are the next logical faucet to grab hold of.
  • Whether you scoff at or believe in the comparisons of Facebook to the original walled garden, Aol, we all know that those trusty walls collapsed when users flocked to content on the open web. Facebook is trying to get ahead of that possibility by ensuring that users can easily access and discover great content (apps) inside their walls. While I’m not a fan of handcuffs (unless they’re furry), the quality tilt is encouraging, if Facebook can leverage its data to improve app discovery.

4. fPhone + fOS is otw.

  • The day will come for the Facebook phone rumors to officially die. That day will be the day the Facebook phone is released. Based on yesterday’s news, I’d expect the rumor-to-release cycle will be shorter than Google Drive’s 5 years.
  • Apps sell phones. Phones sell apps. The App Center is paving the foundation for an OS and a phone, one in which “social” is no longer a descriptor or qualifier. It just is.

As Facebook charges towards the “largest technology IPO in history,” there are a number of smart, strategic reasons for them to throw down on this App Center. But let’s not kid ourselves here with talk of a new, “open” approach to apps. This is ultimately all about deploying aggressive offensive and defensive measures to bolster their walls and connect everything and everyone to Facebook.

Please “like” this post on my Facebook, thanks!