Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Beginning This Week, Expect to See a Lot Fewer Spammy Actions on Facebook

If there’s one thing I hate about Facebook, it’s reading about my friends’ every single action. The launch of Open Graph in 2011 made this possible, as developers began to create apps that automatically posted your app activity to Timeline, the News Feed and the activity ticker.

It was awful. With it came incredibly spammy apps like SocialCam, the flawed, oversharing Washington Post Social Reader and The Guardian, and others that unexpectedly pushed out your app activity.

No more. In a move that speaks directly to a better user experience, Facebook announced on Monday that it will no longer let developers auto-publish certain actions — that is, most of the ones that occur “simply by a user consuming content.” You won’t see ’em in your ticker in the right-hand corner, nor in your Timeline or News Feed.

“When apps automatically publish stories on a person’s behalf in a way that is unexpected, such as when they browse an online store, it can surprise and confuse people,” Facebook employee Henry Zhang wrote in a blog post when Facebook first began making changes.

There are notable exceptions to this rule. Activities using what Facebook calls “built-in actions” — “like, follow, listen, read and watch” — will still auto-publish to your Timeline, News Feed and ticker unless you specify otherwise. These are the bread-and-butter actions of Facebook’s Open Graph, so don’t expect their auto-publishing capability to go away.

The point here, however, is that Facebook is actually paying attention to how fed up people get on both sides of a spammy action. It’s jarring when I realize that I’ve performed some action in an app and it’s broadcast to all of my friends without my even realizing it. And at the same time, I really have no desire to see every little thing you’re doing. So it’s a win for the consumer experience, for sure.

Developers and publishers may not be so thrilled with the decision. Part of a company investing time and resources into a Facebook app depends on the promise of distribution found on Facebook. After all, an app only spreads as fast as other people can see it. And if you’re forced to cut back on the amount of sharing your app can do, that can severely curtail your growth.

Still, Facebook’s answer to this remains the same: If you want your app to spread, make it look good within Facebook. Higher quality stuff means fewer clicks on the “report as spam” button, and more “Like” clicks (in theory, at least). And it’s not like the app is cut off at the legs: Non-auto-sharing custom actions will still show up in users’ feeds.

To hear more on all of this, by the by, I’ll be chatting with Facebook VP of Partnerships Dan Rose at our Dive Into Media conference coming up next week.

Developers aside, I welcome the change. I’m less apt to get annoyed at a new app that pushes something out without my permission. Now if only those pesky, auto-tweeting apps would follow suit.

Update: Date math wrong! The actions will begin on Wednesday, not Tuesday as I wrote previously.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google