Yesterday morning when we came to work in our Mumbai offices in India, we were surprised to see that our Video Calling application was no longer available on Facebook. Neither did we receive any notification, nor did Facebook give any indication of violation of any policy. We obviously thought there could be some mistake and hence we submitted an appeal.
The appeal got us a canned response, with no details on why the application was deleted. At the end of the canned response, they mention the following: If you would like to re-launch your application, please feel free to do so after you are certain that it meets our terms and policies and provides a positive, spam-free user experience on Platform by monitoring user reports. This is bizarre!
What this means to our users
end of this month (Update: we have decided against the relaunch of this application), we will be releasing a Google Chrome browser extension that will allow anyone on Facebook to have group video calls with their friends. You will not be required to authorize any application for this, because we will not be leveraging the Facebook platform. This will ensure you can have Group Video Calls with your online Facebook friends directly from the Chat window, without installing any other software or application. We will continue to offer a clean and safe group video chat for our users using Google Chrome (and other browsers in the future).
What this means to us and the developer community
Clearly, we are not enthusiastic about using the Facebook platform for any product deployments in the future, particularly when we are not aware what the problem was in the first place. The following points are important to note in this context:
- Facebook did not think there were problems in our application when they were asking us to promote our application. We did spend thousands of dollars for promoting the application and got a great response. Does this mean Facebook authorizes promotion of any spamming application if they give them the advertisement dollars?
- Applications cannot be marked spam overnight. If users were marking the application as Spam, why doesn’t Facebook notify the application owners? More importantly why doesn’t Application Insights show these details?
- Our application had a 4.5/5.0 rating with 140 user reviews – considerably higher than other peer applications. The number of likes were 120% of active users and the usage rates was consistently high, with users from around 100 countries. If the application was a spam, they sure wouldn’t have used it so much. Infact, we were so particular about privacy that we did not even collect user’s email addresses. This has now meant that there is no way we can communicate with our users.
- The opacity of Facebook’s policies is a big question mark – particularly when it comes to its implementation. In this context, any developer should think carefully on the use of the Facebook platform for building any utility application.
We will continue to build great products and continue to simplify communication technologies for use by everyone.
The Samuday Team.
PS: There are many other applications that have suffered because of this erratic behavior. You can find more discussions here: http://forum.developers.facebook.net/viewtopic.php?id=95475