Is Facebook Too �Volatile' for Developers to Mess With?

Don Tennant

In my most recent post, I wrote about Popkiller Games, a startup that recently released 'Fart Battles," its debut application for the iPhone. Be the incontestable immaturity of that as it may, I noted that I was impressed with CEO Tucker Aaron and CTO Trevor Rosen, but I didn't get into Rosen's contribution in that post. That's an omission worth fixing.

I was especially intrigued by what Rosen had to say about the reasons Popkiller Games is focused on developing apps for the iPhone/iPad rather than Facebook. Check this out:

I feel like we're between a rock and a hard place, and a lot of developers are, looking at these two platforms, because both of them are extremely popular -- it's where the audience is. But they're also subject to very arbitrary rule sets. So I think for a lot of developers, us included, the calculation is where do we think that tradeoff is with Apple and Facebook having a whole lot of control, and where can we get the most bang for the buck, given that there is that risk. Clearly Facebook is a really volatile place to try to launch something. From my point of view as a developer, the iPad is just way too sexy to pass up. To go straight into Facebook might be the best thing. But to be honest, what really gets us out of bed in the morning is a little bit more oriented towards mobile devices and more mobile platforms. A lot of Facebook stuff really hasn't impressed me all that much as a user.

When you consider how hard Facebook tried to beat its largest app developer, Zynga, into submission over a virtual currency dispute, it's easy to see what Rosen meant by 'volatile.'

In contrast, this is what Rosen had to say about Apple, which is notorious for treating its developers poorly:

I really don't have any complaints as a developer, and someone trying to figure out the SDK and understand how to create an app with their rules and infrastructure. I did feel that if we got rejected on the basis of a content rule, which is where most of the arbitrariness seems to be in the store process-some unpublished rule about content, or Steve Jobs woke up one day and said, 'There are too many damn fart apps in my store'-that would have been really frustrating. I would have been cursing their name if we hadn't gotten in on that basis. But since that didn't happen, I can't say that as a developer I have a whole lot of complaints.

So now Rosen is working on resizing the Fart Battles graphics to launch a version for the iPad. If I were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, I'm sure I'd be saying that I'm not particularly deflated that a fart app developer chose Apple over Facebook. But as I wrote in my previous post, Aaron and Rosen have a lot more in them than gas, and they're doing some amazingly innovative stuff.

In any case, at some point Zuckerberg is going to have to start giving some thought to the prudence of alienating his existing and potential developers. It's a pretty safe bet that Rosen isn't the only developer who finds Facebook too volatile to mess with.

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