Friday, November 06, 2009

The darker side of Facebook applications

No original thoughts from me in this post, but I know quite a few people read this blog who don't necessarily read other gaming news sites, so I thought I'd share a few articles about the shadier side of Facebook/MySpace games and applications that have been receiving a lot of attention within the gaming industry lately. (Those who actually work in the industry have probably already read them, please do feel free to skip the rest of this post if so!)

It started (at least in the public eye) last week, when TechCrunch columnist Michael Arrington attended the Virtual Goods Summit in San Francisco. Social media focused companies like game developer Zynga (YoVille, Texas Hold'Em, FarmVille, and similar games) and advertiser Offerpal Media (an agent for many of the targeted advertisements you see on Facebook) were in attendance. In the Q&A session of the final panel, he took the opportunity to confront representatives of these companies on what he called "the completely unethical way that they are going about achieving that success." Anu Shukla, the CEO of Offerpal, gave an emphatic rebuttal to his accusations. If you're interested in watching their exchange, you can see the video here:

Essentially, Arrington accused these companies of making their money in extremely unethical ways, with detailed examples to back up his claims, and Shukla refuted his arguments. Once the summit ended, both parties in the debate used their respective blogs to re-state and further detail their side of the story.

Initially, both sides presented strong arguments and it wasn't entirely easy to tell exactly where the truth lay in a very grey area. However, if you follow the Arrington link above you'll see a series of updates to the story that have occurred just in the past week, which speak pretty loudly for themselves. The highlights included:

Further updates will no doubt be forthcoming from Michael Arrington's column on TechCrunch, and it certainly seems likely that this isn't the end of the changes that will happen in this area.

So there you go, if you missed this little bit of industry intrigue, now you're enlightened. I have no particular point to make other than to share some interesting information, but hopefully this all will lead to good things for users of MySpace and Facebook apps, as well as a better environment for game development companies themselves that does not actually put ethical behaviour at a disadvantage!

(I also must confess that watching the back-and-forth unfolding of this argument this week has also been the best can't-look-away-from-the-train-wreck type industry entertainment since watching Brad McQuaid self destruct.)

Tangentially, if you're curious about what kind of information the Facebook applications you click on can learn about you, check out this interesting talk given in September by my friend Paul Fenwick. Heck, listen to it just for the charming Aussie accent.

Now carry on back to your regularly scheduled tradeskilling!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for spreading the story of this. I had read some of the articles you linked but I hadn't caught all the twists and turns.

    I'm glad to see Anu Shukla has gone. I don't think any company should openly support the type of scamming that has been going on and she seemed completely unrepentant in her exchange with Michael Arrington.

    Well done Michael for publicising this and getting people to react.

    In the mean time be very careful about putting your mobile number anywhere on the internet.