What’s a lot for one site may be miniscule for another.  Recently, Facebook announced they were removing the ability for developers to write custom Publisher boxes “due to low usage” of the feature on the site.  The feature, which enabled any application to customize the publishing experience for users, was a little-known, and little-advertised feature known to produce a good amount of traffic for applications.  It was a successful feature though, and perhaps “best-kept secret” for many developers writing for Facebook Platform.  Shortly after it launched I remember a few developers writing about how just a few tweaks to the custom Publisher and adapting the experience to each user provided tremendous conversion in application adds for users.  I was sold.

On SocialToo, one significant tool we provided was the ability to, using the custom Publisher (which is still working now, until Facebook turns it off), allow Facebook users to publish to any Twitter profile, and any Page they administer, just with a few checkboxes attached to the Publisher box at the top of Facebook.  This way users with a preference towards Facebook (which, despite the popularity of Twitter in the blogging world, is very popular amongst marketers) could easily publish to their multiple accounts on a selective basis straight from their Facebook profile.

This was a huge success for me on SocialToo – so much that despite the majority of our features being Twitter-focused, this one small feature was bringing in a significant amount of conversions for me.  Users would authorize the SocialToo app, get the publishing feature, and at the same time learn about the other tools we provided for Twitter and elsewhere on SocialToo, purchasing our premium features straight from Facebook.  20% of my traffic came from Facebook as a result.  Near 15,000 of my 70,000+ users were using the application.

Yet, according to Facebook’s response on a developer forum post, they seem to be looking at mostly usage of the Publisher, not net-effect towards conversion (which is why developers were using the publisher – it was an advertising tool for their apps).  According to Facebook:

“We understand that the publisher feature was successfully used by some developers and enjoyed by users.  While it’s never easy to have a feature removed, we made this decision only after carefully reviewing the feature’s usage over time. For the sake of transparency, here are some basic usage stats that illustrate the approximate daily usage:
–          47 applications with more than 1000 stream publishes
–          10 applications with more than 10K stream publishes
–          0 applications with more than 100K stream publishes”

Usage of the publisher, number of publishes, etc. is an important factor, but Facebook still seems to be neglecting what those 10,000+ stream publishes per day were producing for those developers in terms of monetary value and overall conversions.  For my application, it was priceless.

I’m disappointed that Facebook is killing this feature.  I’m disappointed that they did it with such short notice and without it being on the roadmap they revealed at the end of 2009.  Yes, the numbers, according to Facebook, are small, but with only one document tucked away on the developers wiki devoted towards the subject can you blame it for being such a non-used feature?  From my own experience, the conversions alone it produced, and the utility it provided were enough to make it well worth the integration, and I promoted it to all my clients.

If usage was so low, it certainly wasn’t because it wasn’t useful or valuable.  It was because Facebook didn’t promote it or show the usefulness well enough.  Perhaps the API for it was too complicated – I don’t know.  I do know this is one of the many Facebook Platform features that have gone away that will be sorely missed.

I think one thing with Facebook Platform we can now be sure of is that while Facebook continues to increase usefulness of their platform on the web, their own website’s platform on apps.facebook.com is slowly being removed, piece by piece.  If this is the case I really wish they would put that on their roadmap.  As for the custom Publisher – this developer is drastically effected by its removal.