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Facebook moves to cut down application annoyances

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Facebook has changed its rules for developers to cut down on the myriad irritations which have afflicted it since it opened up to third party applications in May.

The open door policy, while successfully castrating any potential rivals, has annoyed many social networking users who couldn't get along with MySpace precisely because it was such a morass of useless widgets and spam.

The 1.1 release of the Facebook Markup Language, announced in an official blog post late Monday, will make it more difficult for hundreds of tinpot apps to pimp themselves to users' friends.

Prior to 1.1, Facebook allowed applications to display messages on profiles like "ADD MyCatPhotosteam NOW!!!!" without the profile owner knowing. "We did this [stopped this] so that the user is always aware of how they are expressing themselves to their friends through your application," wrote senior platform manager Dan Morin.

Developers who want to contact people who have added their applications directly won't be able to email them anymore either. Morin had already hinted that spamming by developers was becoming a problem.

The way applications' popularity is ranked will also changed from total users to user engagement, as is quickly becoming de rigeur in web analytics. Facebook has staked a lot of credibility on the success of its Platform, so has a strong interest in encouraging users to add applications they will use long term, rather than find mildy amusing for 10 minutes and then forget about. Which isn't going to sell any adverts, is it? ®

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