New accounts and activity on Facebook's developer forums are down dramatically since January, reports Adonomics founder Jesse Farmer. And as the above chart indicates, Facebook's users no longer add third-party Facebook applications as much as they did at the beginning of the year. Along with increased competition from social network Hi5 and consolidation into larger widgetmaking companies, Farmer blames the slowdown on Facebook for "instituting increasingly demanding and arbitrary rules on platform developers, which they then enforced selectively and for their own benefit." We agree the slowdown is likely the result of the new rules, but we don't so much blame Facebook as praise Facebook for them.
Building gimmicky widgets that serve no real use, third-party developers had too much success, too early, too easily, on Facebook's platform. For all his puffery, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is correct that useful applications could and should be built on the connections between people and their shared interests. Yet so far, I can't think of a Facebook application I've installed that I can't live without. So why should the developers who built so much junk continue to be successful? They shouldn't. And if Zuckerberg's new rules force these developers to dream as big as he does — sometimes awkwardly and in public — then good.