Applications created for the Facebook platform can now feature live chat, a capability the company foresees will not only make programs more appealing but also boost their usage and rate of adoption.
Adding Facebook Chat could result in end users interacting more with an application, as well as in making it easier for them to invite their friends to install the application, increasing its user base through word of mouth, according to Facebook.
"There are countless ways applications can integrate this feature. For instance, users can invite friends to start a live game, a couple can plan a trip or their wedding together sharing links, or friends can exchange reviews on music/restaurants/gadgets -- all without leaving your application," wrote Facebook software engineer Yariv Sadan in the company's official blog for developers on Thursday.
Playfish, a developer of games for social networks, plans to incorporate the Facebook live chat feature in the coming weeks, a spokeswoman for Facebook said via e-mail.
In an interview last month, Dave Morin, Facebook's senior platform manager, said the company this year will make it easier for members to discover applications that are relevant and useful to them.
Facebook opened up its Web site in May 2007 so that external developers could create applications for it, thus enhancing the appeal of the social network for end users and giving developers a chance to generate revenue from advertising and other methods.
Currently, there are more than 52,000 applications available to Facebook members. "We're doing lots of testing around giving users more ways to discover applications that their friends are interacting with, so you'll see some of that work come out this year," Morin said at the time.
Facebook members browse a directory for applications, or search for them using the site's search engine, while developers in turn can promote their applications by buying ads on the site. Facebook wants to improve on these methods of finding and promoting applications.
Last year, when Facebook rolled out a major redesign of member profiles' layout, some developers complained, arguing that the changes robbed applications of visibility. Facebook's position is that the opposite is true.
In their eagerness to promote their Facebook applications and help then stand out from the crowd, some developers have resorted to deceitful practices to get members to install them, resulting in spam and other annoyances. Facebook has regularly taken policy and technical steps to curb these practices, but it remains to be seen if some developers will find ways to misuse this new live chat capability to aggressively promote their applications.
Asked about this potential problem, the Facebook spokeswoman said via e-mail that all of Facebook's standard terms and policies, including authenticity of communications and no incentives, apply to applications that use the chat feature.
In addition, users can only initiate a conversation with one friend at a time and can only send messages via chat to their friends who are listed as being online, she wrote.