Facebook Goof Cripples Controversial Homepage Poll

New Layout Vote‘, a Facebook application that is polling users on their response to the new Facebook homepage, is taking the social network by storm. The application is growing incredibly quickly, with 2,168,639 monthly active users, over one million votes and 560,000+ comments, the vast majority of which are overwhelmingly negative. Granted, there is a strong selection bias involved (people are more likely to add the application if they hate the new Facebook), but there’s no denying that a substantial number of Facebook users are not pleased with their new homepage.

Now the developers behind the application are up in arms over a new restriction that prevents users from inviting more than two of their friends to join the app, which severely hinders its ability to go viral. The following notice appears above the app:

Dear Facebook, we created this neutral and democratic vote because we love Facebook. Please stop trying to suppress the vote and muffle the voice of your users who desperately want to be heard. Let us know you are listening; let us exercise our right to vote and to invite our friends too.

Facebook says that the application fell prey to an automatic system designed to curb abuse on Facebook Platform (the system suspected that the app may have been created by fake users, and cut back on the number of invites alloted). This certainly sounds believable, as inserting the limits manually would have been a fairly boneheaded PR move.

Among other factors, our application reputation system looks for apps that could have been created by a user with a fake account. When our system flags a suspect application, its allocations are reduced until the application has cleared the system’s checks. Once an application has cleared the checks, the system adjusts the allocations appropriately.
We think this app is providing a lot of value to Facebook and users. It was flagged in the system but has since passed the checks and should see increases in its allocations.

The explanation fits, but given the publicity around the application, which is among the fastest growing Facebook applications ever, it seems surprising that nobody took the time to ensure that nothing like this happened.