Five tips for making a popular (and maybe profitable) Facebook app

The rush is on to make killer applications -- but is there more hype than money in the endeavor?

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"Growing daily active users is far more important than total users," Mokhtarzada explains. "Utilize Facebook's social graph to make the application interesting to people."

3. Make it social

Price, who works as an interior designer, says he loves how Facebook brings people together. So he and a friend who is also an interior designer created the My Room application to exploit the social aspect of Facebook. "As interior designers and developers, we wanted to create an application that would bring together those who share a love for design," he says.

Likewise, Flixster created Movies to bring together people who love movies. "Flixster is all about a person's personal relationship with movies, sharing, rating, reviewing and discovering movies through friends and friend recommendations. Facebook is the perfect environment for our application, where so many people are already connected with their friends. We have seen our application taking off and working so well in that environment," says Flixster's Polsky.

4. Leverage your site

Design an application that extends the functionality of your own Web site, thus, helping to promote your site. This is what Flixster did with its Movies application.

Another example: The Facebook game HoboWars (requires registration to view) is a "lite" version of the original Web-based game. Initially, the Facebook version was created in response to players wanting to show their player statistics on their Facebook profiles. Andrew Hogan, the game's creator, decided to take things a step further and made a self-standing HoboWars game that runs on Facebook. Though he has not been actively promoting the original Web site version of HoboWars, the Facebook version of the game managed to attract an additional 9,000 users to the HoboWars site.

HoboWars invites you to
 
HoboWars invites you to "Fight your hobo friends. Train and beg to be the best hobo around." (Click image to see larger view.)

5. Prepare to scale

If your application grows in popularity and use, be ready to invest in more hardware or more server bandwidth, warn experienced Facebook application developers. What little money Hogan has managed to earn from his HoboWars application has gone back into buying new servers to handle the increasing load of users playing the game. He released his Facebook application on Sept. 10. Within two weeks, HoboWars hit 70,000 users a day. "That's when there were problems," Hogan says.

Commagere knows first-hand how having a popular application can bring about hardware issues. His trio of monster-themed games -- Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves (all require Facebook registration to view) -- have been consistently ranking high on the list of most popular Facebook applications. "If things take off, scaling can be stressful, but take solace in the fact that everyone goes through those growing pains," he says.

Vampires, one of Commagere's monster-themed games, boasts 322,857 daily users and is described as Kind of like Zombies. Except that the Vampires are hot. <i>Very</i> hot.
 
Vampires, one of Commagere's monster-themed games, boasts 322,857 daily users and is described as "Kind of like Zombies. Except that the Vampires are hot. Very hot." (Click image to see larger view.)

Howard Wen has reported on technology news -- specializing in business, development, wireless, culture, gaming and open source -- for several publications. He can be reached at www.HowardWen.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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