What’s next for Facebook apps

I’m convinced that Facebook’s API is on course to become the single most important platform on the web - if someone can come up with a killer app for it. Since launching in May, thousands of apps have appeared but none that appear to be must-haves for now. Stanford is now offering a course in Facebook app building and Widgetbox today released a tool for creating apps with no knowledge of code. Several venture funds have created mini funds just to invest in Facebook apps. Oodles of valuable marketing-ready user data (and presumably the media dollars of the Fortune 500 companies that covet it) are up for grabs to whoever can successfully build the first must-have Facebook app.

One thing that’s interesting to me about all of this are the parallels between the development of new Facebook apps and the original web development (web1.0 or whatever you want to call it) 10 years ago and what we’re seeing now. In the late 90’s, we saw many companies scrambling to “internetize” their existing products (witness NBC.com in 1996) without much understanding of how to reach an audience or what to do with them once they arrived at their site, I feel like several Facebook apps are attempting a bit of the same thing right now.

Every web-based widget that’s out there now has (or will soon have) a Facebook app. Among the apps added to my Facebook profile are feeds for del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Last.FM and Twitter. What does this add to my Facebook experience right now? Not sure yet, other than an overwhelmingly larger amount of information that might as well distract my friends from my profile as much as it draws them to it. Call it one part late-90’s portal nightmare, two parts awesome.

Right now I get the feeling that I’m the rare TechCrunch50k-type user who drools over integrated solutions on a network like Facebook’s, but I’m still not sure how this app race is going to play out longer term. One thing that’s certain is that considering the enormous number of apps already put out since May (CNET reported that there were 1,500 apps in the first month alone) will keep getting better and more fully featured. The tougher question is what we’ll see that will blow away all the others.

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