After developer outcry, Facebook softens app spam controls

Developers complained — and Facebook listened.

Late last month, Facebook enacted a new spam control system to cut down on the rampant spam on the company’s application platform. But the company quickly came under fire when the new controls apparently cut out a number of legitimate applications. Disgruntled developers quickly took to Facebook’s message boards and the press to complain about the company’s lack of communication prior to the shut-downs.

It looks like Facebook heard those complaints loud and clear. On Thursday the company announced several changes to its application developer tools and its app spam control policy to give developers more insight into how their apps are being received by the larger community — before those complaints prompt spam control action. Facebook is now rolling out a “news feed” tab in its developer dashboard that shows the positive and negative feedback apps have received in an easy-to-read graph form.

In addition, Facebook said it has softened the way it responds to app complaints. Now, when Facebook receives excessive negative feedback on an app, it will first disable only the aspect of the app that is receiving the majority of complaints, rather than deleting the app entirely. For instance, Facebook engineer Mike Vernal wrote in a blog post announcing the changes: “If an app is generating a lot of negative feedback via chat messages, we will take action only on that app’s ability to publish to chat but otherwise leave the app intact.”

Facebook also says it will now disable, rather than delete, apps that receive negative feedback across multiple channels. Users will not be able to access an app in disabled mode, but developers will still be able to access, test, and edit it. Developers will be able to appeal when their apps are disabled entirely or in a granular fashion.

All in all, these are very smart moves for Facebook to make. The swift response to last month’s criticism shows that it is taking its developers seriously; as does Facebook’s willingness to be more transparent about how they are regulating the apps. After all, developer trust is key to any API strategy.

Here is a look at the new dashboard “news feed” feature: