Facebook opened a sandbox for its application developers to begin updating their applications for their upcoming profile design (due in about a month). While the sandbox does not seem to indicate where Facebook advertising will appear, it seems to open up the possibility for applications to operate in a more full screen environment (you can look at existing applications by changing http://apps.facebook.com/appname to http://apps.new.facebook.com/appname in the url). In other words, application developers will be able to more approximate the experience of the Web inside Facebook using its platform. i.e. Web developers can develop for the Web and do their own marketing or they can developer for Facebook's viral platform with a membership audience of 30 million+ users. The improved application layout makes the prospect of developing your entire application in Facebook more appealing.
Facebook users will probably appreciate the apparent firewalling of application information into secondary areas within the navigation. Application links have been moved into their own Start-like drop-down menu. Application profile boxes have been migrated to their own tab (graveyard). Although it appears that users can move the applications they like into main areas of their profile page. The overall navigation does seem a bit cluttered for those not familiar with the social network. There is a trade off here between simplicity and a more complex albeit orderly layout.
Here are some example images:
There is a lot of new developer documentation for application owners to sort through. The purpose of this sandbox process likely is to allow developers and the company to push for adjustments and changes before this gets rolled out to the live audience. Although unmodified applications will be backwardly compatible, it's in the best interest of the developers to keep up. One down side of working in the Facebook environment continues to be the fast pace of changes and stability of the platform through these shifts. The sandbox approach is a positive step in giving developers a bit more time to adjust. Obviously, these kinds of changes are hardest on small developers.
After Facebook removed the requirement for applications users to register, I've thought Facebook should offer a CNAME mapping service so my applications can run in Facebook at their own domain. I suspect they will add this soon - and we will begin to see more Facebook-only applications i.e. apps available on Facebook, not available separately on the Web.
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