It's Official. Facebook Is Running A Protection Racket On App Developers

Earlier today Facebook released details on its new Verified App Program for third party developers.

Basically, application developers (there are 48,000 applications on Facebook today) can apply to become a Verified App. If they pass they get a badge and special placement in the Application directory, plus increased communication limits with users, increased visibility in the news feed and some free advertising credits. If they don’t pass, they get stuck into the unwashed masses of apps that aren’t verified because they aren’t “meaningful,” “trustworthy,” or “well designed.” The complete guidelines are here.

Basically, you don’t want to be in the loser group. Facebook users aren’t going to be quick to add an application that can’t meet basic competence or honesty standards. A developer trying to get users on an unverified app is sort of like someone trying to get a job as a doctor without a medical degree. It’s going to be hard.

So how do you get into the Verified App category? You pay. $375. Well, you have to pass those tests, but then you pay. You can be so Meaningful people make religious pilgrimages to your office. So Trustworthy that your Wikipedia edits are never questioned. And so Well Designed that the Apple guys call you up for tips. But unless you pay that $375, you ain’t getting the badge.

And then you pay again. Each year. The Verified designation is good for just twelve months.

There’s a word for this kind of system. I just can’t remember what it is. Oh yeah. Protection Racket.

It’s a beautiful model. And I have no problem with it, as long as we’re all willing to admit that it is what it is. I just wish Facebook put as much effort into launching their payments platform as they did on the new verification system. Because then app developers could start charging for apps like they do quite successfully on the iPhone, and make some of this money back.

And just one last thought – if an application isn’t meaningful, trustworthy and well designed, why is it in the app store at all?