Continuing in my Facebook series, I figured I would outline what I see as the different classes of applications available on Facebook. Of the 3500+ apps you can find now on Facebook there are 2 key types out there: throwaway, and immersive. Mind you I don’t mean to put down any app by labeling it a throwaway, I just couldn’t think of a better term. Maybe a superficial app? Not much better.

So a throwaway app is from my perspective an application that has an extremely low cost of use (time or energy), but also gives you less incentive to keep it around for that same reason. Something like a vampires or a werewolves app is a throwaway. Although incredibly, and i mean INCREDIBLY, viral in nature, these apps have limited depth to them (at the moment). They do not bring the user into their world as they can be used for 2 seconds, and then abandoned. Also after their initial buzz has worn off and you’ve bitten half a dozen or a dozen of your friends, what is your motivation to keep playing? So with that in mind your opportunity cost of removing the app becomes much smaller.

An immersive app or engaging app is a completely different story. They don’t typically have the same super-easy-super-viral nature, but when they do bring in a new user, they are likely to keep them in much longer. iLike is a classic example of an immersive app. iLike lets you share with your friends your interests in music, which gives it a viral sticking point, and it lets you explore new music and new interests via your friends. This last part is what makes it a kick ass application, the engagement factor through your friends. The key to having a stellar immersive app is to create a mountain of value for the user the longer he/she uses it. By building up this content and value, the user is also becoming less inclined to remove the app altogether, as they’ve invested so much energy, their opportunity cost for removing it is becoming increasingly higher.

It’s not easy to create an application that engages and is extremely sticky, it may seem easy to do either one or the other, but in the end it’s not. Although it is possible to create something simple and sticky, and then later transition it to a more immersive program. Ultimately the question boils down to: are you adding any value to the user experience? If you are, then you should do fine either way you look at it. So hurry up and make some apps. When they are ready, send me an email brian[at]webpl.us so that I can check it out.