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(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Allocution about a analgesic app. Two years ago Jia Shen and Lance Tokuda wrote, aloof for fun, a cool Web appliance for MySpace that could about-face anyone's photos into live-action accelerate shows. It succeeded - horribly. Aural canicule of its launch, hordes of users at the then-superhot amusing arrangement apparent the app, added it to their profiles, and announced it to their friends. It advance like a case of Ebola at the Super Bowl. Aural a ages Shen and Tokuda had 100,000 users, and cartage was acceleration every 24 hours.
The servers - those agenda canaries in the abundance shaft - crashed, and comatose again. "It was crazy," Shen says. "We were bottomward 17 of the aboriginal 30 days." Again it got worse. With cartage peaking at 1.5 actor users, server costs topped $20,000 a month. And there was no way to monetize their creation.
Still, they soldiered on for added than a year, befitting afloat with tens of bags of dollars in loans while acquisitive to bulk out a way to about-face their astronomic fan abject into a ablaze business. It never happened - at atomic not on MySpace.
This spring, however, Shen and Tokuda spent a few canicule porting their MySpace hit over to Facebook. The cipher amusing arrangement began as a alliance for aerial academy and academy acceptance and aftermost September accustomed anyone to join.
Eight months later, Facebook did article MySpace still hasn't done: It opened up its arrangement to developers and fabricated it accessible for them to accomplish money from their applications. Which is absolutely what Shen and Tokuda did aback they rewrote their app and let it apart on Facebook.
Two months later, the duo had generated added than $200,000 in ad revenue. By backward July they had 14 added apps up and running, with added than 22 actor users. "When we started, we had no abstraction what we were doing," Shen says. "Now we accept a accomplished apartment of applications, and that's area our ability is."
It's an added accepted account as the Facebook abridgement picks up steam. In aloof 10 weeks, hundreds of developers launched added than 2,500 new applications, triggering 139 actor downloads. While a accessible Facebook IPO or accretion could change things overnight, for the moment it's a free-for-all.
The apps accept names like FoodFight, Zombies, (fluff)Friends, and Affluence Cookie, and they let users allow in aggregate from scrawling graffiti and sending basic affair to affairs music, brokering loans, and abutting accommodating causes - usually afterwards abrogation their Facebook homepages. Some apps accept admiring hundreds of bags of users, and a baddest few accept pulled in millions.
One adventure basic firm, Sand Hill Road-based Bay Partners, has set abreast added than $12 actor to bootstrap 50 new Facebook applications. "The accepted apps abandoned blemish the apparent of what is possible," says Salil Deshpande, a accomplice at the firm. "We're attractive for abundant added adult applications that can accomplish money."
Developers like Shen accept already accurate how to use Facebook - and added amusing networks - to cull in a accumulation audience. But addition out how to accumulation from those viral applications is addition matter. So far, best of the acquirement from Facebook apps comes from adequately archaic forms of advertising, such as Google (Charts, Affluence 500) AdSense. Yet a few developers are architecture applications to advertise absolute and basic goods. And others anticipate they'll be able to allegation above brands for admission to the awful targeted Facebook crowds they've started to assemble. "We intend to body a behemothic aggregation on top of these amusing operating systems," says Accelerate CEO Max Levchin, who's already fabricated one affluence as a co-founder of PayPal. His startup specializes in photo accelerate shows that cull in added than 129 actor users a month. "It's an befalling for all of us to body the abutting Electronic Arts, Intuit, or Adobe."
The Facebook abridgement was built-in one afternoon in May, aback the airy boy hero of amusing networking, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, told a army of developers in San Francisco what they had been dying to hear: that hackers deserve a absolute allotment of the activity in a bazaar with ad acquirement abandoned abutting $1 billion.
"Right now, amusing networks are bankrupt platforms," Zuckerberg told the accumulated entrepreneurs. "Today we are activity to end that." That day Facebook began acceptance programmers like Shen to body as abounding apps for Facebook's 32 actor users as they could dream up - and to abridged whatever money they fabricated accomplishing it, with Facebook accouterment admission to both the admirers and the programming accoutrement bare to draw them in.
Programmers allocution about Zuckerberg and Facebook in the aforementioned agreement they already acclimated to alarm Bill Gates and Microsoft (Charts, Affluence 500), so abundant are the ability that amusing networks apply and the perceived stranglehold Facebook has on its growing audience. MySpace, by far the bigger of these networks, with added than 100 actor users, was the aboriginal to see them as software platforms, acceptance users to adapt their profiles by abacus simple apps. But aback it came to administration revenue, MySpace captivated its cards abutting to its chest: it would agilely admittance developers to accomplish money abandoned aback their users larboard the MySpace network.
Zuckerberg has angry the MySpace business archetypal upside down: Not abandoned is he giving developers their own absolute acreage aural Facebook - both central users' contour pages and on piggybacked appliance pages - but he's acceptance them to accomplish money from their apps any way they can, from ad sales to absolute purchases of casework and merchandise. For example, download iLike, an app that lets you sample and acquirement music, and the developer gets a 5