According to Mark Zuckerberg, more than two hundred million dollars have been invested in Facebook applications as of July 2008. But is it a good investment if the number of unique monthly users visiting Facebook applications is decreasing? I found that the average change in an application’s unique monthly users from September to October was a decrease of 87,997. All over the internet, people are stating their opinions on what they think is happening to the Facebook platform. The data that I found, which is illustrated below, suggests that Facebook applications are losing popularity, which could mean a huge loss of money for those people who have invested in the applications, as well as businesses which depend on people using these applications.
A review of a recent one month period showed that 66% percent of the top 250 Facebook applications experienced a decrease in the number of unique monthly users. Out of that 66%, 16% was a decrease of more than 50%. On September 9, 2008, I entered the number of unique monthly users into an Excel sheet for the top 207 Facebook applications (ranked by unique monthly user). Then, one month later, on October 12, 2008, I did the same for the top 200 Facebook applications on that date. Of course, there were some new applications that had not appeared in September, 42 to be exact. To make the graphs and compare the data, I had to fill in data that I did not have. There were applications that appeared in the October list, but not on the September list. For these applications, the number of unique monthly users in September was unknown, so I used the value of 200,000. I also entered 200,000 as the value for the applications that were in the top 207 in September, but did not appear on the top 200 list for October.
The declining traffic that Facebook applications are experiencing is important to the many people who built businesses around these applications and within social networks. There are many possible reasons for this decline. A popular opinion is that the decline is a result of the new Facebook design which was implemented in July. There are so many applications that are very similar, like the ones that focus on sending gifts to friends. There is not much to these applications and how many flowers, chocolates, hugs and toys can you send to friends before the novelty wears off? When looking at the top fifty applications in September (ranked by unique monthly users), the one that grew the most, in terms of both number of unique monthly users and percent change, was Causes. Causes unique monthly users increased by 4,641,318, which is a 156.83% growth. Maybe people got tired of living a virtual life and instead are spending time online raising money for charities. Or it could be that giving to charities is becoming popular and people are getting more recognition among their friends for giving money to charity rather than doing well in a virtual world. Finally, Facebook traffic could just be leveling out. Just in the past year from September 2007 to September 2008, Facebook’s unique monthly users actually increased by over 15 million. Sooner or later there will not be as many new people visiting Facebook, while there will still be people leaving.
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