The rise and #fail of the Guardian Facebook app

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This blog post is worth a read, though it’s quite technical about the underpinnings of the web (and can take a while to load on a slow connection because there are huge graphics). Do persevere, though, because you’ll learn something about how powerful Facebook has become in terms of generating web traffic, and how organisations like The Guardian have been working with them.

In a nutshell, the Guardian introduced a Facebook app, but instead of trying to drive traffic to the main Guardian site, they tried to use what Facebook were calling “frictionless sharing”, which was to keep you within Facebook, but offer you further links to other articles popular with Facebook users.

The idea was, it seems, to try to grab more eyeballs. The Guardian’s 40 million users seems like a lot – until you compare that number to Facebook’s 800 million members. As the article says, the potential power of frictionless sharing was immense. One user shares with 150 friends, and if just 10% of those read the article and 10% of those install the app, then the numbers could grow very rapidly indeed.

The problem for the Guardian was that people have become increasingly suspicious about everything Facebook does – and people are worrying more than they were about their privacy. As we discussed in class the other day, there’s even a sense that Facebook is losing its allure.

It also turns out that Facebook is in a state of permanent revolution, changing the way it works and changing is policies more or less every six months. So it ends up with the Guardian cancelling their app and trying some other way to get hold of those Facebook eyeballs.

The app was launched in September 2011 as one of several using Facebook’s new “frictionless share” feature. After a user authorised a publisher to do so, websites and apps could post directly to a their timeline without them having to explicitly share an item.

As can often be the case with many Facebook changes, the feature was greeted with suspicion and a lot of criticism.

And I’ve had some bad reviews in my time, but a tweeted death threat to “the children of whoever designed it” was a new low. I use a different tweet in presentations to illustrate the negative reactions, for the brilliant combination of lots of swearing AND caps lock:

“WHY THE F**K IS THERE A GUARDIAN APP ON FACEBOOK WHEN THEY HAVE THEIR OWN F**KING WEBSITE” — @Playwert

via The rise and #fail of the Guardian Facebook app.

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