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Facebook Gets App-Happy

Facebook Gets App-Happy

For all those Facebook users who felt stifled by being limited to one choice of action on an item -- the ubiquitous "Like" button -- the times are changing. Dozens of new "Action" apps will allow them to make a wide range of declarations. Advertisers are salivating. Being able to displays ads to people who "Watched" a video on ski resorts or "Read" a vacation guide, for example, would be irresistible to a travel company.

By Erika Morphy
01/20/12 1:24 PM PT

Do you like to garden? Share coupons? How about bike riding? If so, there's an app for that -- on Facebook, that is -- or soon will be.

As promised at last year's f8 developer conference, Facebook rolled out about 60 new apps to be used on its site this week. They are designed for users to express more precisely how they are interacting with content on Facebook by introducing new verbs to join Facebook's "Like" button.

What this means is that a Facebook user who previously could only "Like" the book The Help, now can proclaim having "Read" it. Ditto for "Listen," "Watch," "Want" and "Own." Facebook is calling these new verbs "Actions."

Everyone Gets an App

Facebook announced partnerships with several well-known websites, including Spotify, Rotten Tomatoes, Pinterest, TripAdvisor and Gogobot. More apps are expected to follow this first wave.

Facebook has opened its platform to all developers, wrote Carl Sjogreen in an official company post. "Soon, there will be apps for all types of interests, as more apps will launch over time. Whether you love snowboarding, gardening, hiking, or knitting, or something else, there will be an app for you."

In other words, users will be able to share what they're "Knitting" or where they're "Snowboarding," etc., as these apps become available.

Facebook did not respond did not respond to our request for further details.

The Trouble With 'Like'

One of the complaints about the Like button has been that it's too limiting. Someone who has read The Help might not have liked it at all, for example, but still might want to note having read it.

"What Facebook has done is opened up the range of expression for users," Gabe Donnini, lead analyst at Chitika, told the E-Commerce Times.

Advertisers' Treasure Trove

For Facebook, these apps will deliver many benefits. It will build on the Timeline's stickiness, enticing people to spend even more time on the site. It will also help deliver more precise information to advertisers about its user base.

Indeed, it is not hard to imagine how eagerly advertisers will embrace the data that might come from, say, a foodie or travel app. Being able to displays ads to people who "Watched" a video on ski resorts or "Read" a vacation guide, for example, would be irresistible to a travel company.

"This is a significant development for online advertisers as a whole," Donnini said.

"The introduction of these new metrics will allow advertisers and business to not only measure the intent of their users with greater accuracy than ever before," he noted, but also "give them a much better picture of the demographics of the user base. That, in turn, will lead to new level of targeting."

Too Confusing?

One possible drawback to these apps for users is the level of confusion they might present.

Too many verbs could lead to "Action" blindness, especially if apps become very vertical and lead to a slew of Actions related to the same subject -- for example, "Baste," "Roast" and "Broil," as opposed to just plain old "Cook."


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