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Sold Out! 10 million in 10 weeks

December 12th, 2007

Look ma! Someone decided to post a video of my presentation last night on a prominent facebook blog.

My Stanford class on facebook apps is wrapping up. As a class of 80 students, we created 40 or so applications that run within facebook’s social network. As of last night, more than 16 million people had installed these applications.

Anyway, our class presented the results last night at Bay Chi to 400 people, including a hundred people who watched on video screens in an overflow room and dozens of others who were turned away at the door. Tonight, we’ll repeat the exercise tonight to an even bigger audience at the Stanford Alumni center.

How were these applications able to be so successful? Below is a transcript of my three minute speech or you can watch this 1 min 52 sec screencast that is almost identical in content or grab the slides or handout. This framework was created by Xingxin Liu, BJ Fogg and me.


Six patterns for success. We conducted a bottoms-up analysis of the top 100 facebook apps according to Appsaholic. We found six patterns and then classified them. Native patterns are tightly integrated in the profile pages and rely heavily on friend selector and other functionality exposed by facebook, whereas adapted patterns do not.

Within native patterns, you can take actions or create artifacts that are either individually- or group-directed. For example in 1A, provoke and retaliate apps allow a user to perform an action on a friend. This genre includes apps like KissMe, Hugs, Zombies and X Me. In 2B by contrast, group exchange apps allows users to create and share artifacts collectively. This genre includes the top 2 apps, SuperWall and FunWall and others like BumperSticker.

Within adapted patterns, ‘competition’ adapts popular games like Scrabble, poker and video games to a social context. Adapted patterns, however, are cross-cutting: many native apps include Leaderboards and status levels to foster competition. Meanwhile, many apps include ‘deceptive’ like misleading fake facebook buttons and other navigation to trick users into install other apps.

Here is Bless You, a class app that reached 200k users in 20 days. It is quite simple: send friend a bless by one click.

Bless You - 1

Bless You fits the ‘Provoke& Retaliate’ Pattern. However, it includes other patterns too: a level system for competing, top lists for comparing, profile box for self-expression and group exchange; and ‘deceptive’ navigation.
Bless You - 2

We coded every app by primary pattern in the top 100 and aggregated the data in this chart. Deception is common but secondary, so we have omitted it. Some observations:
1. A small number of Group exchange apps reach many users and are highly engaging
2.Reveal & Compare appears to be faddish – large reach but low engagement
3. Compete is highly engaging within a niche
Facebook Stats

Which applications from tonight’s presentation fit into which patterns? Hopefully, these patterns offer one useful way to think about why these apps were so successful. Questions? We’re Michael Weiksner, Xingxin Liu and BJ Fogg. Please see us at intermission, and I have about 100 copies of our handout if your interested. Thank you.

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  1. December 13th, 2007 at 18:09 | #1

    Nice job Michael, I really enjoyed your presentation. It was really helpful.

  2. December 13th, 2007 at 18:38 | #2

    Thank you, and good luck with your facebook app development company. It should be easy pickings for you if you do a good job, because I see many more demand than supply at the moment!

  3. December 14th, 2007 at 23:25 | #3

    The fun thing about these patterns are that they are really, really old – I recognize at least a few of these behaviors from 198x Usenet (except of course with a lot more lag in the system).

    The “deceptive navigation” pattern is the only worrisome one; what you are asserting is that successful applications consistently have a call to action that violates a user assumption about the nature of the interaction. I suspect that the non-Facebook best equivalent to that is the “click to accept license agreement that I didn’t read”.

  4. December 15th, 2007 at 09:46 | #4

    Hi Ed,

    “Deceptive navigation” is indeed worrisome. Right now, it is confined to tricking people into installing other applications – a fairly benign trick.

    If your following this thread, I’d love to hear you explain how these patterns match the behaviors from the 80s. I think the facebook native patterns are really quite different; I’ve never seen anything like them on the Internet.

    Thank for you comment!

  5. Patty Price
    March 15th, 2008 at 06:12 | #5

    Really interesting. I wish you would post the other assignments :)

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