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October 07, 2007



3. Facebook users are only willing to give up a finite amount of profile real estate to apps. Apps tend to sit between the profile fold and the Wall (most users don't bother to re-locate their profile items - the Wall included), and this means there's very little space for new apps on existing profiles.

Also, my network feed suggests people don't remove apps as fast as they add them.


I thing Ning (ning.com) would be a better candidate to see if it is fitting in to the Long Tail Category
As it offers people the possibility to create their own network. And they encourage small networks.

Peter Kazanjy

Something I'm noticing in the chart: they x-axis is developers, not apps. In the case of Slide and RockYou, they own quite a few popular apps each, the combination of which would raise the peak amount of users accorded to them.

If Slide or RockYou both have three major apps (RockYou has a stable of seven, but i don't know what the relative amounts are, Slide has their slideshow widget, but also "Top Friends" which is hugely popular, in addition to "Skin Flix"), then you can collapse their totals by a third, you get a less insane head section.

This is just a quick note based on a glance at the data. If anyone has contradicting info, please share.


I'm inclined to support the most-apps-are-crap hypothesis. It's almost trivial to write a new app, and so you have way too many non-serious developers putting out something half baked.

Chris Neumann

I'm almost positive that it's an immature market, and people just haven't gotten good at making apps yet. IMO, it's just too early in the game to be doing this sort of analysis - it's only been a few months since the platform was even announced.

Josh Bernoff

My analysis: you've almost got it with answer #1 but not quite.

Short head items always succeed partly because of word of mouth. I saw the movie, I told you about the movie, you saw it. You read Harry Potter (or "The Long Tail") because you heard again and again it was good.

Long tail items survive because they can survive with a few consumers. If you like Italian poetry about motorbikes, sure, you won't be sharing that passion with very many people, but you can still enjoy it when shelf space isn't an issue.

In Facebook, as you point out, the short head benefits from the network effect even more than in other markets. But the long tail suffers because of the LACK of network effects. A facebook app for Italian poetry lovers would be a failure because there are not enough of them to network. Apps in facebook are built on friend networks. If your friends don't share your passions -- if your passions are that rare -- then an app is just not much fun.

For example, I have just loaded up an app for Red Sox Nation that's got hundreds of thousands of members. We're a big group (bigger right now!) and it works because we like to connect and hear and draw strength from each other.

Unless there a few thousand other people in your affinity group, your app won't take off.

Especially because, as Neil points out, there's no room for it on your page. (In Long Tail parlance, it's not the retailer's shelf that's the problem, it's the limited space in the shelf at my house.)


I'm gonna go with the "most are crap" hypothesis. I like the ones that essentially let me link web applications to my facebook profile, like flickr/delicious/google reader. There's a few native ones that are useful (sorta) like "where have you been", and some fun games.

But - for every good one, there's about 10 variations of "superpoke". To be real about it, it's just a glorified widget engine, and most "applications" are just that. Many more are nothing more than an RSS feed. And lots are just *annoying*.

I don't think it's a long tail kind of thing. To use the example of a commenter above; what would an application for Italian poetry lovers look like, exactly? Such people can already form a facebook group (I'm sure there's a long tail of groups) - but any application for that niche could also be done with a more generic one - you could display an RSS feed of an Italian poetry blog, put your favorite poem in a text box, that sort of thing.


I'm assuming the main issue is that apps don't have to be adopted by a user, but by his friends —— most apps demand is to work. This is far more difficult to shovel down the curve, because of the massive network effects.


To argue my point, I think a log-log chart of *Groups* would be more interesting —— because the Friends constraint is releived.


I'm inclined to support the most-apps-are-crap hypothesis. It's almost trivial to write a new app, and so you have way too many non-serious developers putting out something half baked.


Facebook application findability is definitely a problem. Unless one a friend has somehow found an app and it appears in your news feed, there's not another (obvious to me) way to find an application.

Of course, I haven't tried to hard to find any more. Maybe there is an "app search" but it's not nearly as in-your-face as the prompts to send an app you've already found to your friends.

Another example are the apps themselves. I admit to wasting lots of time taking Flixster user-generated (and Flixster-seeded) multiple choice quizzes. I've even created a few. However, there's no way for me to find more quizzes than Flixter presents to me (other than the limited "Roll dice again" prompt to get 10 more random quizzes).

Robin Grant

Chris - surely this is a just a result of 2 things - 1). the effects of the head start the early apps got by being able to get their users to invite all of their friends (this is now limited to 20 a day) - we can expect this effect to disappear over time and 2). that this is an immature market that hasn't had time to shake down yet?

Pete Toth

The answer is #2!

Pete Toth

The answer is #2!

Pete Toth

c'mon, utter crap-E-ola!

Devabhaktuni Srikrishna


Is it possible that the conclusions about not finding a long tail in facebook apps was premature? Now it appears the pattern might have changed to a long tail.

On my blog I plotted the facebook apps rank ordered on the x-axis by number of daily active users as of ~5pm, December 5, 2007 – arbitrarily cutoff at apps that have 1000 or more daily active users.

There are 10,187 apps total of which about 1000 of them have more than 1000 daily active users. note this is a log plot on the y-axis. Long tail: 40 million users use the top 1000 apps, and the top app is at 4 million active users. the apps above 1 million daily active users are superwall, funwall, top friends, video, superpoke, and X me. the judging from the log-scale on the y-axis, the usage appears to have a power law distribution in the range 200 to 1000. much steeper decline before the top 200 apps.

Here is the original blog post





jeux video

it's a bad day to be a Facebook Fanboy! Longtail i am totally agree with you.. Thanks for sharing this helpful information with us..

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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