No Facebook Apps for the Enterprise in Sight

Glum news for Facebook lovers looking to start building business applications on the site.

SAN DIEGO-If the people who are building applications on the back of the Facebook platform can't tell us when we will see some legitimate enterprise-oriented applications built on the site, who can?

That's one of the messages people learned at the Graphing Social Patterns West 2008 show in San Diego on March 3.

Following a presentation on a course on how to build applications on Facebook, which proved wildly popular at Stanford University in 2007, 750 Industries co-founders Robert Fan and Dan Ackerman-Greenberg couldn't or wouldn't provide specific examples of how business apps will be built on top of Facebook.

"No one really knows what the long-term utility of these apps are," said Fan, who was a teacher assistant for the Facebook course at Stanford. Fan's company builds social applications for Facebook and other social platforms.

"It's just like the early days of the Internet when everyone had those annoying Web pages that flashed a lot, but it evolved into something that had a huge utility."

Pressed by an audience member to make any predictions about when we might see some useful business apps built on Facebook or other social networks, Fan said it will just be a slow evolution, happening as time goes on.

Ackerman-Greenberg chimed in that he is interested in building applications that are going to foster social interactions and viral adoption. He noted that as of today, that might mean an application involving people "hugging each other back and forth," but it could be something entirely different tomorrow. But what that could be in the business realm he wouldn't say.

Why are programmers so reticent to commit to business applications built on social networks?

One of the reasons is the security and privacy concerns hounding social networks. Consumers love to play multi-player games and share trivial information on these sites, and because of this light frivolity, some professionals assume that the sites don't take security and privacy seriously enough.

Try convincing the CIO that your programmers should spend time writing business apps for Facebook. It's up to Facebook and MySpace to not only educate users, but prove that they can be serious enough for businesses.

Of course, the walled gardens need to become a bit more flexible without giving up proprietary information and triggering security threats, a dicey proposition by any measure.

Until then, users will be relegated to digital kissing, food fights, sheep-throwing and zombie attacks. Meanwhile Facebook Platform Marketing Director Ben Ling presented directly before the Stanford teachers.

Ling didn't have much new to bring to the table, but he did say Facebook will be able to take credit cards later this year. This is big news for e-commerce companies building Facebook apps to sell goods.

In other happenings, Yahoo MyBlogLog Product Manager Ian Kennedy took the MyBlogLog API out of beta.

This software allows users to query the MyBlogLog social network and pull metadata associated with its user and site profiles. Users will be able to build mashups using a variety of social data.