How to Violate Facebook’s Policy On App Usage Incentives

One of the things I wanted to do to help market my Facebook game Sea Friends is get it in the Facebook Application Directory. This way, if people are searching for apps, they can add it. Until Facebook approves it for the directory, the only way people can add it is if people receive a challenge or if they go to the app’s URL directly.

When the app was submitted for inclusion in the directory, Facebook rejected it because it violated section 8.4 of the Platform Policy, which involves incentives for using or adding Application Integration Points. Basically, a Facebook application should not provide points, virtual or real currency, or any improved rankings just for sending out invites or sending out notifications.

Ok, that sounds pretty straightforward, but a huge part of Sea Friends is violating this part of the policy. The game allows you to protect real coral reefs, and while playing the game helps to do just that, sending out challenges to your friends also does so. That is, each time you challenge a friend, you protect 5 more square inches of coral reef.

Now, wait a minute. There are TONS of apps in the Facebook Application Directory that are based on giving things to people and earning points or unlocking items in exchange, aren’t there? Isn’t Sea Friends doing essentially the same thing?

It turns out that there is a subtle difference, and this question has come up before. These other apps don’t violate the policy because the points or unlocked items aren’t awarded until the recipient accepts the invite or virtual item. So to fix this issue for Sea Friends, I would need to make sure that the extra square inches of protected coral reef only get added after the recipient of the challenge actually accepts the challenge.

And there you have it. To violate the Platform Policy, your app needs to provide an incentive to send out invites. The proper way to do it, officially sanctioned by Facebook, is to only grant the benefit after the invitation has been accepted.

[tags] facebook, indie, game development [/tags]

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