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Facebook to police site add-ons

24 July 08 10:18 GMT
By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, San Francisco

Social networking site Facebook is introducing a ranking system for good and bad application developers.

Announced at F8, the Facebook developers conference in San Francisco, it aims to improve the quality of applications on offer.

Dubbed Application Verification it will promote "secure, respectful and transparent" add-ons to the site.

"We haven't done enough to reward the good or punish the abusive," said Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.

"We're going to have to find a way to ensure the applications that provide the most long term value are the ones that are succeeding," he said.

As Facebook has grown many believe it has struggled to stamp down on applications that annoy or deceive users. Common abuses include spamming people with unnecessary notifications or sharing data about users who wanted to it to stay private.

Great Apps

Mr Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook had been partly to blame for some of the problems.

"When we were first releasing the platform, we took this approach of getting it out there as quickly as possible," he said. "Even though things weren't completely baked yet, we wanted to get it in front of people."

He told attendees that the mistakes of the last year underlined the need to work with developers to create better content and also "incentivise" those doing good work.

To that end, from September developers can apply to have their applications vetted to see if they comply with a list of 10 guiding principles. The list include things such as being meaningful, engaging, useful, trustworthy, and well-designed.

Those meeting all the criteria will win a "Great Apps" seal of approval. Those meeting some of the criteria will win "Facebook Verification".

Applications that make neither grade will get little or no promotion on Facebook.

"Users will eventually trust applications more because what we will offer is this badge so they can see the applications that are verified and trust them more," said Benjamin Ling, Facebook's director of platform programme management.

"For developers they will have more visibility than applications that have not yet been verified," he said. "And as a result that means they will have more users."

The first to be granted "Great Apps" status are music service iLike and Causes, which promotes good deeds.

Facebook expects 12-15 developers to win the "Great Apps" ranking.

At F8, Mr Zuckerberg lifted the veil on Facebook Connect that allows users to connect their Facebook identity to up to 24 other websites including Digg, Six Apart and CitySearch.

Facebook has also redesigned to make its site "cleaner looking" and improve how members can use it.

Missing from the keynote address at the conference was mention of a payment system for developers. When asked that this would launch at a post-conference press briefing Mr Zuckerberg said: "I wish I knew."

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