The Irony of Facebook (aka Verified Apps Program FAIL)

As you may know, StyleFeeder has a rather large Facebook application that we launched in the summer of 2007, just after the Facebook platform was announced. We grew quickly, mainly because the application is actually useful (rather than the apps that let you throw electric sheep at people, which are fun but also tiresome) and lets you share your shopping activity with your friends in a non-beacony-big-brother kind of way.

Since then, Facebook has gone through several redesigns, each of which successively depresses the visibility of applications on Facebook. It’s hard to find them, it’s hard to see them, they change the API willy-nilly and break all kinds of stuff and generally make app developers feel like we’re being slapped around. Am I being harsh? I’m not making this stuff up and we’ve alluded to it before. Check out the developer forums and you’ll see what I mean.

It was with much amusement this week that we received not one but two emails from Facebook.

I feel rejected

The first was a rejection notice for our $375 application to the Facebook Application Verification Program. We submitted this application weeks (possibly months?) ago, which Facebook kindly sat on for an extended period of time (but this is normal, apparently). Basically, this program is supposed to give your app extra visibility and a good ol’ Facebook seal of approval because they’ve apparently checked to make sure you’re complying with their terms of service and making Facebook a better place. It sounds like a good thing. (I even have hope that they’ll make the big apps play by the rules and not let them be all spammy like they’ve been in the past.)

Why the rejection? Two reasons, according to the email that we received:

Policy Violations:
1. Please bring your application into compliance with Facebook Platform Policy section 2.4 (see Section 2.4 states applications cannot mislead, confuse, or defraud the user in any way.

Please make sure it is clear to the user that they are navigating away from Facebook. For example, using the clicking on a product within the app should alert the user before bringing them away from Facebook.

As for number one, well, I think that reasonable people could disagree that clicking on the products in our application take you off of Facebook, so I’ll simply disagree on the grounds that it’s not confusing at all. But I’ll leave that one aside because the next one is awesome

2. Please bring your application into compliance with Facebook Platform Application Guidelines section I.1- I.3 (see These sections mention that applications cannot promote, or contain content (including any advertising content) referencing, facilitating, promoting or using, the following:

  • Adult content, including nudity, sexual terms and/or images of people in positions or activities that are excessively suggestive or sexual.
  • Obscene, defamatory, libelous, slanderous and/or unlawful content.
  • Hate speech, whether directed at an individual or a group, and whether based upon the race, sex, creed, national origin, religious affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation or language of such individual or group.
  • Content that is deceptive or fraudulent.
  • Content relating to the sale of liquor, beer, wine, tobacco products, ammunition and/or firearms.
  • Content relating to gambling, including without limitation, any online casino, sports books, bingo or poker.
  • Inflammatory religious content.
  • Politically religious agendas and/or any known associations with hate, criminal and/or terrorist activities.
  • Political content that exploits political agendas or uses “hot button” political issues for commercial use regardless of whether the Developer has a political agenda.
  • Illegal activity and/or illegal contests, pyramid schemes or chain letters.
  • Content from uncertified pharmacies.
  • Sale or use of web cams or surveillance equipment for non-legitimate use.
  • Spam” or other advertising or marketing content that violates applicable laws, regulations or industry standards.

Your application has images of adult content being added and shared by users (ex: search “thong”). Please remove all instances of this content from your application.

We have about 14M products on StyleFeeder from ~2500 reputable retailers along with a truckload of cool products that our users have added over the years. It’s entirely conceivable that we have tens of thousands of thongs on our site. I have no idea what the real number is, but I’m sure it’s a lot. We also have our own Terms of Service and don’t allow adult content on the site, but that’s really not what we’re talking about here.

I have a better idea: if you’re easily offended by seeing pictures of models wearing thongs, a good idea would be to not search for thongs. If this is an effort to protect underage children from seeing skimpy underwear, I have to wonder if Facebook is going to then go around policing all of the photos and textual content on their site? Because I’m quite sure that they’ve got much racier stuff than a few thongs… like, perhaps,’s extremely popular Naughty Gifts app (Hello Natasha!).

This really is a most perplexing reason to reject an application. By way of comparison, check out what a search for ‘thong‘ on Amazon yields. Guess what? Models wearing thongs. If Facebook thinks they’re going to become content police, they have a long way to go and they’d better stop allowing user-generated content on their own site.

The Ironic Part

This morning, we received our second communication from Facebook:

My name is [redacted] and I’m writing from the Facebook advertising team. Apps such as StyleFeeder have been particularly successful when advertised on Facebook, and our team would like to help you in developing a marketing strategy.

Nice. So they won’t give verified status to the the number one shopping application on Facebook, but you will happily offer to take our advertising dollars.

The thing is that we’ve met a bunch of people at Facebook over the years and they’re all nice, helpful people. But the clumsiness with which these application verification efforts has been managed is vexing, to say the least.