Did Facebook’s Redesign Just Bring Back Viral Spam?

Facebook has launched a major redesign for games, bringing back some viral components that were turned off after users complained about random alerts cluttering their news feeds.

The updates were announced Thursday evening, just hours after Google unveiled its games network that offers game makers a larger cut of the revenues than Facebook does.

Facebook’s new features will likely be favorable to developers, who are constantly looking for new ways to get players to discover their games, but it’s questionable how the social network’s audience will react.

It’s been more than a year since Facebook shut off developers’ ability to post messages to people’s walls — messages that asked friends to help look for their lost cow or plow their crops. When users complained, Facebook cracked down significantly, which made it much more difficult for developers to find new players for their games.

Meanwhile, Google announced today that it is trying hard to contain all game activities to a particular tab under a user’s profile to steer clear of ever being accused of spamming a person’s communication flow.

Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product for Google+, told me that there’s a name for unwanted solicitations: Spam.

“We do not want to inundate you with things that are not relevant,” he added.

It seems that Facebook is now looking for some middle ground to give developers another way to find new consumers.

In a blog post, Facebook said its began rolling out a new ranking system with the goal of only surfacing relevant items to friends, including “high quality content from apps.”

Messages will even appear in the feed of a person who doesn’t already use the app.

Apparently some of the responsibility will fall on the users to determine what they end up seeing. For instance, apps that post content which results in high usage will be posted more often; conversely, apps that have content “that is frequently hidden or marked as spam” will be posted less often.

Given that users will have to manually participate in marking alerts, it’s hard to understand how this does not represent a reinstatement of the social network’s old viral channels that people loved to loathe.

Beyond reinstating some viral components, Facebook users will also notice other obvious changes, like a live ticker of real-time game-related updates; bookmarks, where users can select their favorite apps; and leaderboard-type features, where users can post achievements and scores to make game play more competitive.

Another major update will give developers the ability to expand the size of their games so people can expand the game to the full screen of their browser.


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