Facebook’s growing pains: upsetting users and developers

Facebook blamed miscommunication for the controversy, but as the BBC reported, as many as 83 million of Facebook’s near-billion users are duplicates, fakes, or “undesirable” accounts.

Facebook's growing pains: upsetting users and developers

Facebook paid $1bn for Instagram, but it’s tougher at the bargaining table with other developers, according to developer Dalton Caldwell. He posted an open letter to Mark Zuckerburg accusing Facebook of initially supporting his startup, then informing him it would be launching a competing product. If he didn’t sell up, Facebook would crush him out of business, he said.

“The execs in the room made clear that the success of my product would be an impediment to your ad revenue financial goals, and thus even offering me the chance to be acquired was a noble and kind move on their part,” he said. Caldwell insists this was not an isolated incident, claiming Facebook now routinely employs “intimidation-based negotiation tactics”.

Money talks

Facebook has courted controversy before – remember tracking system Beacon? – but are these latest cases a sign that the social network is aggressively pursuing revenue at the expense of a good relationship with users and developers?

According to Luke Brynley-Jones, founder of Our Social Times, that may be the case. “Facebook and Twitter are both pushing users to the limit of what’s deemed socially acceptable, for one obvious reason: each incremental incursion into your privacy represents a potentially lucrative new income stream,” he told Marketing Week. “What’s interesting is that they are doing this under the radar. Even large, unwieldy corporates learn from their mistakes.”

Others think there’s a better way: App.net, for example, charges users a subscription rather than trying to monetise them in more intrusive ways.

Whether it can build a significant user base remains to be seen, but Facebook’s future activities will play a part in determining that. As Caldwell said: “I don’t think you or your employees are bad people. I just think you constructed a business that has financial motivations that are not in line with users and developers. Even if my project isn’t the mechanism that instigates this change, the change will happen.”

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