Facebook app verification smells like open source

Social network's Application Verification Program seems to be following the model of foraging for dollars by implying that the community product isn't up to snuff.

TechCrunch calls Facebook's new Application Verification Program a "protection racket."

Verified apps will get a green checkmark. Facebook

That's a bit harsh, but the marketing behind the move does smack of The Godfather: "Yes, my son, you could use that unverified application, but you don't want to get hurt, do you?" TechCrunch's take:

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"...You don't want to be in the loser group.

Facebook application developers must pay a fee ($375) to be part of the program. Given the nominal cost, it's likely that many will sign up. But it's not the cost that should be worrisome: it's the idea.

Ironically, this is much the same tactic that open-source businesses are often pushed to by their communities or, rather, by the community. (The paying customer community generally could not care less.)

Because open-source vendors like MySQL have been harangued by the community into providing little to no product-level differentiation between their "community" and "enterprise" products, they have been left to forage for dollars, sometimes by implying that the community product is not up to snuff.

This is the wrong way to go about product differentiation, and it's as true for Facebook as it is for open source. Some projects like ZipTie are apparently going off the open-source grid in order to make money that the pure-play open-source model hasn't afforded them. We don't want to see this happen.

No more litmus tests. I've been as guilty as anyone of establishing these in the past for what constitutes an "open-source company." I was wrong. It's a bigger playground than that.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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