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Facebook App Center: The Good, the Bad and the Confusing




Facebook apps confuse me and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Smartphone apps don’t confuse me. I locate an app in the app store. I buy or download it for free. It shows up on my phone and I can use it, play with it, listen to it, whatever without any connection to any website or social media network. It’s a mini computer program. I get it.

Facebook apps, on the other hand, come with strings. There are games that you must play inside the walls of Facebook. There are games that (apparently) you can play outside and just report your activity on Facebook. There are apps that lead you to a website that you could have landed on faster by typing the URL and there are apps that seem to do nothing more than leave a trail on your wall.

To take some of the mystery out of Facebook apps, the social network has finally released their new App Center.

It looks nice. It’s clean and neat and let’s you sort apps by Web, Mobile or category. It offers suggestions based on your current app usage and shows you what your friends are using. This is very powerful because we know that human beings like to follow the crowd so if their friends are playing Scramble, then they want to play, too.

Click on an app and you get a very nice page with a full description, screen shots and an explanation of what will happen when you use the app. There’s also a link to the app page, which takes you to the Facebook page for the app, not the app itself, so it’s very confusing. Clicking through on the Pinterest link eventually landed me on the normal Pinterest home page. Kind of like taking the scenic route, I guess.

The biggest thing missing from the app center (surprise, surprise) is a search engine. If I want to learn about a specific app, I have to guess at the category and skim through the list which doesn’t even have an alphabetical order option.

It gets worse when you pull the center up on your phone. That version doesn’t even have category navigation. If all you’re interested in is what’s popular, then it’s perfect.

As far as functionality goes, the Facebook App Center is only as helpful as the app itself. I tried clicking through on two different apps and ended up with very different results. On my phone, I chose ZyngaPoker, it shifted me to the iTunes app store. I downloaded as usual and found I could play without evening logging in to Facebook.

On the web, I chose the Fanhattan app and clicked the “Send to Mobile” button. Nothing happened. I don’t think Facebook has my mobile number but it didn’t ask for it either. Ten minutes later I got an email thanking me for joining Fanhattan and opting in to their email list. Really? I did that with one click? Sorry, no. Unsubscribe.

The Facebook App Center is a step in the right direction. It should boost app usage which is a good thing for all the marketers involved. I just wish they’d be a little clearer about what you’re actually getting when you press any button. Then again, this is Facebook.