The Facebook Problem: A New Perspective

One of the toughest aspects of the Facebook platform is the potential rate of growth. While the virility of the Facebook platform provides a new opportunity for entrepreneurs, it also creates a very dangerous predicament. Instead of asking, ‘How do we grow?’ the question becomes ‘How do we scale?’.

The post “I have 250,000 Users, Now What?” describes some of the growth problems on Facebook, and prominent bloggers such as Brad Feld have discussed it as well.

To build on this conversation and add an additional perspective, J-Squared’s Sticky Note application has seen explosive growth and is now finding itself in the middle of ‘The Facebook Problem’. While we are pleased with our situation in some respects, there is no infrastructure in place for us to scale with our growth rate. As an early stage start-up, we lack the important resources needed to effectively grow the business evenly in terms of scaling and product development. If we spend time on one, the other fails. Both are crucial to success.

While we don’t believe it is Facebook’s responsibility to provide unlimited resources to their developer community, it does seem that some sort of developer assistance program would benefit both Facebook and its growing developer community. Why not reward the most successful applications by providing support of some kind? It’s in Facebook’s best interest to facilitate the growth of the most popular applications, because these popular apps begin to take on the Facebook brand.

We have personally experienced poor customer-support response times and adverse effects from poorly communicated F8 modifications, among other obstacles. At the same time, our users are beginning to associate our sometimes slow response times (due to server overload) with the Facebook brand in general. This is why it behooves Facebook to assist popular applications. It becomes a representation of the entire Facebook product.

We’re not asking for Facebook to provide us with a revenue model and an executive management staff, but some general support and streamlined communication would help.

What do you think? Should Facebook be providing support of some kind? If so, what type of support? Is ‘develop at your own risk’ the right model, or will developers soon leave the ephemeral green pasture of F8?

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25 responses to “The Facebook Problem: A New Perspective

  1. I am with FaceBook on this one.

    As a person who has written APIs that are consumed by a very large developer community, I am of the opinion that FaceBook is not deliberately ignoring its developer base. From experience, providing an API is not a very easy thing to do, let alone an API of the FaceBook scale of usage. I am not sure what software development model they are using there at FaceBook but if they are using the popular Web 2.0 agile approach, that approach does not lend itself well to supporting an API (maybe a very simple API but not a complex API).When you have an API, you just cannot put it out there and let the people use it and give you feedback like you do with Web 2.0 apps. If you do, then you are going to get a lot of complaints from people complaining about a broken API or an unstable platform etc. Therefore, your development cycles will tend to be longer because when bugs start pouring in, you have to filter them, prioritize them (some bugs may not get prioritized for years and become features), make sure that fixing the bugs will not violate design/architectural integrity, code and then test the HECK out of the fix. API usage is very unpredictable, so the testing cycle tends to be very long, and at times longer than all the preceding development cycle steps combined (this is why some companies have a tester to developer ratio of three to one). After developer testing, unit testing, system testing and integration testing then you are ready to release the fix. Depending on the fix, you may have to release the fix to a limited group of API users in your developer community. So you see, the development cycle is far much longer that regular Web 2.0 agile development cycles. In Web 2.0 terms, this process is an eternity. As a person who has been through this process what seems to be a million times, I hope FaceBook will find ways to incorporate some agile concepts so that the process is not as long, is responsive and yet still able to product stable code.

    So I am on FaceBook’s side on this one because their development platform is still new and its just going thorough the growing pains right now. While it’s tough enough to build a support for a regular enterprise software API, they are going to have to build a massive and efficient support system for the user base that they have. That support is not easy to build because the support team must consist of developers who are familiar with the design and usage of the API. It’s hard enough to find developers to develop the API itself, let alone to find developers to support it. These are issues that FaceBook will have to deal with and hopefully not repeat the model that I have detailed above, but bring innovation in this area and move the industry forward.

    Providing you an efficient support process and a stable product are both in FaceBook’s best interest; so, hang tight until the API and company’s internal processes mature because. Both FaceBook and its API are still very very very young.

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  4. Hi Mi name Is Ashley GIlmore, And i am having a Very Hard Time Qith Facebook Right Now … Like Mi Friends Are Trying To add Me so When A Email comes up that ihave to accept them i cant it wont let me comfurm anything!? Its like mi computers frozen but its still letting me click the buttions but when i do click the buttons nothings happening! and i also Cant write on anybodys walls ither!!! And the layout at the top of it where u can choose ure profile and everything is WAYY differnt and i dont know how to fix it Please HELP me send me an email or something to Repair My Facebook Please!, thank you.

  5. I’m having the same damn problem Ashley…keep on trying.
    Plz let me know if you’re having the solution!
    Thx

  6. This sounds like a Facebook problem and not a problem specifically with one application. I would suggest contacting Facebook through their help link.

  7. cant reply, get error on page, cant confirm, really frustrated, please help asap

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