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Dicing up the Web 2.0 Summit Facebook panel

Some of Facebook's most popular app developers got together to talk about the apps platform and what's on the horizon.

The Facebook chat panel at the Web 2.0 Summit this morning was a time to talk about the Facebook platform and how it's changed the development and monetization of Web services. Several of the panel speakers have immensely popular apps on Facebook, and widgets for MySpace including Slide, RockYou, and iLike.

The two big question pitched to the devs were how Facebook has changed what they've done internally and what's on the horizon. "We looked at the Facebook platform and thought this could be the greatest paradigm in technology since the Internet itself," said Ali Partovi, the CEO of iLike. Partovi and company are one of the real success stories of the Facebook platform, and are currently up to over 700,000 daily active users with their iLike music-sharing application. Partovi also noted that when they launched their app the first weekend of the Facebook apps platform launch, the company had to rent a truck trailer full of servers to handle the traffic.

Partovi also said that iLike is currently pooling close to 100 percent of its resources on the Facebook app, and is actually launching new features first on the Facebook platform before it happens on iLike.com. Other developers on the panel said that their development focus for Facebook apps fell somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent. Slide was the only one of the bunch that noted it's only spending 10 percent of the time working on Facebook in lieu of working on offerings for other social networking services like Bebo, MySpace, etc.

Also mentioned was the article by Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital earlier this month that lambasted the Facebook app platform as being aimed at "toddlers." Lance Tokuda CEO and co-founder of RockYou said, "She's not a teenage girl...we're targeting the MySpace market...one day I'm going to build something just for her." A statement that eventually led to a chat about some of the more inane apps on the Facebook platform, and how involved users are wiling to let themselves get, both with time and money. One app in particular even lets people spend $10 of virtual currency to throw virtual feces at one of their Facebook friends (or enemies). ILike's Partovi links the "infancy" of these apps because of the age of the platform, and what developers have had the time to build. He also noted that apps for Windows weren't that great either when the operating system first launched.

So what has made this platform so successful? Seth Goldstein the CEO of SocialMedia.com thinks it's the similarity of apps to entertainment. "People are using these apps because they let you do things you can't do in real life," said Goldstein. Where that's going in five years, he thinks, is linked less to the simulated and more on the real. "There will be a lot of critique coming in Facebook apps about real-life events," he continued. Whether or not that equates to news tools, similar to what The New York Times has done with their news quiz app, may or may not be what he was referring to. Keith Rabois, the vice president of strategy and business development of Slide, also echoed Goldstein's sentiments, noting that "people are bored and looking for something to do...apps that people have built on Facebook are providing entertainment."

To follow that up, the panel wrapped with a short discussion about benchmarking, and how to figure out if your app is actually successful. Many of the panelists were skewed on their responses, discussing the importance of things like pageviews and ad revenue over things like how many daily users you have, and how much time people are actually spending using an app. Several, including Goldstein noted the utility of the Appsaholic app, which measures all sorts of usage metrics of Facebook users with each of the apps while selling "app installs" to developers. Tokuda of RockYou prefers QuantCast because it can show developers' page views for their apps. There was little mention of Facebook's own directory and statistics tracking services.