The Facebook Platform Kill Switch, What It Means

Today Facebook officially announced the option for allowing users to completely opt-out of the Facebook Platform and prevent applications from gaining access to their information. While many developers are rightfully concerned about the feature, we’d like to take the opportunity to thoroughly address how the new “opt-out button” functions and what it will mean for developers.

How To Turn Off The Facebook Platform

Prior to jumping into what the implications of the new button that lets you turn off the Facebook Platform and block all applications, we thought it would be useful to share how to block the Facebook Platform under the new configuration. It’s pretty easy to get to the button which says “Turn Off Platform”. We go through the three steps below:

Step 1: Click on “Edit Your Settings” under “Applications And Websites” on the new privacy settings page.

Step 2: Click on the link which says “Turn off all platform applications”

Step 3: Click on “Select All” and then the “Turn Off Platform” button

What This Means

For Users

The first thing to understand is what this means for users. Users will now be able to block all applications in only a few clicks. While much of this was previously possible, the major differentiator is that users will now be able to block all forms of app-to-user communications. Application requests, etc, will be blocked. One important thing that was clarified to us by a Facebook spokesperson was the following:

Users may choose to opt-out of of sharing their data with applications on Facebook Platform, however they will continue to see stories from applications that their friends use in their stream.

So yes, you can’t stop your friends from posting application stories, but you can choose to block them from sending you requests or any other form of “spam-like” communication from apps. However turning off the platform means users will not be able to install applications. Facebook users may also be prompted with the opportunity to turn the Platform back on. As Bret Taylor described on the developer blog today:

Users will have multiple opportunities to turn Platform back on. For example, when users who have turned off Platform click a Facebook login button in your application, they will be prompted to turn Platform back on before they can continue. Likewise, social plugins will not show any personalized content for these users until they click a “Turn Platform on” button on the plugin.

For Developers

For developers, the risk of a large number of users turning off the Platform is a real one. However, as any developer knows, five clicks is more than one, which means there’s already a significant hurdle to blocking applications. Additionally, as soon as a user sees all the applications they can no longer use, there’s a greater chance that they will stick around.

If a user blocks applications all together though, that’s one less user that application developers will have the opportunity to market to directly (through app-to-user communications). However stream stories will still be posted and developers have the opportunity to promote their application via advertisements and essentially convince users to install their applications, in turn turning the Platform back on.

So will this kill application growth? Probably not. However it’s definitely interesting to see that Facebook is letting users opt-out of one of the most integral components of the site. Do you think this will be valuable for users? If you’re a developer, what concerns do you have?