We've witnessed zombies, vampires, sheep, parking spaces, kidnapping, pushpins and hundreds and hundreds of other silly Facebook apps take our time and waste it like nothing in recent history.
But ever since Facebook's redesign, those apps have been relegated to other sections, and their popularity has waned. It's become tougher for developers to launch new apps successfully, and even tougher than that for brands to do the same.
But don't be so quick to write Facebook apps off just yet. There is a new breed of app that may very well be more powerful than several poking and parking apps combined -- and draw even more attention to Facebook's split personality as both a media property and a platform.
Facebook Connect has actually made Facebook apps more important than ever. But these apps are a different breed. They are meant to facilitate connections, not waste your time. It's what they help you do, not what they do themselves, and they represent the first entrants into the next great Facebook app war.
These apps sit behind the scenes, and are usually invisible to the end user until they need to accept their "installation" to make the function they've requested work.
Confused? Here's a quick explanation.
Let's say I just reviewed a restaurant on Citysearch.com. Now that Citysearch uses Facebook Connect, I can instantly ensure that that review (and all others in the future) are shared with my Facebook friends. After I submit my review, and I opt to "Connect with Facebook," a window pops up that allows me to grant permission to the Citysearch app to connect to my Facebook profile/network.
Once I grant permission to the app, I approve the publishing of my review and it appears on my Facebook profile and in the newsfeed of many of my Facebook friends.
Facebook Connect makes it easier to do what 50% of the battle was when branded apps were all the rage: Act as a Trojan horse into the newsfeed -- the "holy grail" of Facebook marketing success, and the best way to realize the potential of Facebook's famous social graph.
With the success of CNN's Inauguration Facebook integration, companies, properties and brands should be asking how they can put Facebook Connect to work for themselves -- and their marketing programs.
That's why it is not only the site developers who should be thinking about how to integrate Facebook Connect, but media and creative agencies as well. When it comes to social media, well placed, engaging creative that sparks connectivity is more likely to help generate "earned" media.
Facebook Connect is arguably the biggest thing to happen to online marketing in 2008. And 2009 may be the year we finally figure out how to make the Facebook social graph work for us -- by making things that work with the social graph.
~ ~ ~
Ian Schafer is CEO of Deep Focus.