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November 19, 2008

Facebook Irks Developers With Application Verification Fee

Facebook's recently announced plan to charge a fee in order to verify applications built for its social network has many developers up in arms.

In order to verify each application developed for the site, Facebook said it will charge developers $375 annually. The verification fee is optional and is reduced to $175 for students and nonprofits.

Platform program manager Sandra Liu Huang said Tuesday that Facebook opened the Application Verification Program to developers on Monday.

Developers who pay the fee and register their application for Facebook verification will earn a special badge that will put their application in a more prominent place among the 48,000 already available for Facebook users.

The fee will cover costs on Facebook's end related to reviewing the applications, and it will recur each year along with a fresh application review, Huang said, adding that she expects that several hundred will become verified initially.

Some developers are not thrilled about the new verification concept.

Mike Knoop, 19, who developed an application that lets Facebook users request phone numbers from their friends, is not opposed to paying a fee to participate but doesn't like the idea of paying each year.

"Because its recurring every 12 months, I think that's going to shut out a lot of the smaller developers that don't have the initial capital to invest in Facebook applications," he said.

Huang said if Facebook eventually finds that the costs of reviewing the applications declines, it would be open to lowering the reverification fee.

"I think that the $375 verification fee can be justified if it were a one-time fee. But recurring every 12 months? This will be the big wedge between those apps which get verified and those which don't even apply. I'm very curious to see what percentage of apps get verified," another developer wrote on the official Facebook discussion forum.

"Users already distrust applications on Facebook platform. Now they will distrust unverified applications even more. This seems unfair. My application is already 'well designed,' 'trustworthy' and 'meaningful' to thousands of users. Why should I pay $375 a year just because Facebook allowed so many useless, spammy applications in the first place?"

Meanwhile, rival social network MySpace  in a statement said: "MySpace led the way in creating policies that promote a healthy ecosystem, which includes treating all developers, large or small, equally. We already review every app before it goes live, and the cost is nominal so we have no plans to charge developers."

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