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Machine Learning Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Zakia Bouachraoui, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White

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Facebook Developers Getting Antsy Over Verified Apps Program

Facebook’s Verified Apps program, first announced in Summer 2008, is a way for trusted application developers to be separated from the pack. But the program is yet to launch, and perceived delays and a lack of communication by Facebook is making some developers who signed up for the program a little antsy.

The details of the program were announced in November. Developers are charged $375 to apply to the program, and must continue to pay the fee each year. I called it a protection racket.

Putting that aside, though, the program seems to be very popular with developers. Facebook hasn’t said how many applications they received but they initially estimated that at least 10% of of the 50,000+ third paryty applications on Facebook Platform would become Verified. My guess is 10% is on the low side.

Facebook originally said the program would go live in early 2009, and we’re still in the ballpark of “early” in the year. But some application developers are saying Facebook took their application fee and now aren’t communicating with them at all about timing or the status of their application. A few comments from a Facebook Forum page on the topic:

It’s been months since we have heard anything about this. What time frame are we looking at?

Communicating with the verification team seems almost impossible - their email system doesn’t work properly and they wont give out the name of the person dealing with my application or any contact phone number. All the emails they send me are anonymous and unsigned making it impossible to hold a conversation. Most of the emails I send them disappear into a black hole or seemingly get delayed a week then end up not being delivered to the same person who I was replying to. They offered to phone me at a pre-arranged time but it has proved impossible because they want to organise it by email and their email system doesn’t work! If it takes a week to exchange one email, we can’t arrange a time for a call within a week! We’ve paid a lot of money for a service we’re just not getting…

I had to pay the full $375 for which I got nothing, because the changes suggested by the reviewer were in direct conflict with what the platform policy team had told me to do, so I couldn’t implement them and Facebook have not responded to any of my questions sent by email. Can Facebook please explain why some developers have only paid $1 and got verified while others have been charged $375 and you wont even communicate with us?

A Facebook representative responded in the forum and said:

Thanks for your feedback about the Application Verification program. For those who have completed the detailed submission form, you should have at least heard back from us with initial feedback. You can reply to us with any questions through that channel.

As far as what’s been going on, we’re working hard on two fronts. First, ensuring the verification review is thorough and results in applications that are trustworthy and improve the user experience of Platform applications. Second, we are working developing and testing the full package of verification benefits to make sure they achieve our goal of helping trustworthy apps gain exposure on Facebook.

Facebook hasn’t yet responded to my email inquiry on this, but I’m guessing the volume of applications may be a factor in the delay. Facebook is also building a lot of new products in a lot of different areas of the business, and they are becoming famous for missing publicly stated dev deadlines.

But it’s also clear from the comments that developers expect something besides silence, largely because of the fee they paid. Facebook has said from the beginning that the fee only covers their costs in running the program, which I don’t completely buy. But at any rate, this looks like the Verified Apps program may be a bigger headache than they counted on.

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