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So You Wanna Be a Facebook App Development Star?

So You Wanna Be a Facebook App Development Star?

Fame, fortune and endless job offers. Such is the life of the Facebook developer.

Well, not quite. If you’re a software developer seeking to break into the business through Facebook development -- or an experienced codesmith out to make a bundle -- you should probably view any forays into the Facebook realm as a learning experience, not a sure thing. “Even if your app doesn’t make money, it does give you experience that’s priceless,” says Matthew Kraft, cofounder of Lonely CEO Media, a Facebook application development company.

The mad rush to develop Facebook applications is leading techies to wonder if a Facebook application is in their future. After all, the applications independent developers create with Facebook’s application programming interface (API) are part of the social networking site’s attraction. With established companies looking to gain a Facebook presence, experience in the platform is an asset.

So, should you dive into Facebook application development? Those who develop Facebook apps say the effort is worthwhile to:

Specifically, creating a Facebook app can help you learn and show your experience working with an API, scaling a Web site to significant traffic and crafting a user-friendly interface. You can also demonstrate how you marshal your technical skills to implement your idea.

In the Web 2.0 world, building a Facebook application is a way to exhibit social media-savvy. Because Facebook applications must be attuned to the Facebook community’s needs, experience in Facebook development can show an employer you understand the importance of tailoring an application to a particular group of users. “If you’ve created a successful Facebook application, you’ll have a demonstrable ability to understand users and different Web services,” Kraft says. “That’s invaluable to employers who are looking to connect with new customers by enhancing their brand and by reaching out through the new Web.”

Just Another API?

But others don’t see Facebook development as a must-have skill. “I personally view the technology as just an API [that] any programmer should be able to work with,” says Elliott C. Bäck, who created Facebook’s Simple Stock Quotes application. “I didn’t learn anything new doing it, so I haven’t acquired personal value. There’s value in what I built and for my resume in showing I can accomplish this kind of Web development, but for a career, it’s more important to focus on fundamentals.”

And if you’re thinking there’s a fortune in cranking out an app, think again. “Facebook application development is not the lucrative gold mine that a lot of developers make it out to be, because earning money through them is just not as simple as building a toy application, spamming your friends with invitations and hoping for a good click-through rate,” says Aaron Stannard, a blogger and Vanderbilt University senior who has already received “a plateful of offers for small jobs” related to his Facebook work. “I personally have not made any money off of my apps yet, but that’s primarily because I'm still fine-tuning them,” he says.

Face Up to the Task

If you do have your sights set on developing a Facebook app, where should you begin? Matt Huggins, a programmer who created the Facebook Developer Web site, recommends starting small. “As you create your first application, you will slowly learn that there are much easier ways to do whatever it is you just accomplished,” he says.

Kraft advises focusing on what users want, not what you want. “See if there’s a place in the market that satisfies something users already want but don’t yet have,” he says. “You can’t teach users to want your product, but if you hit on something they respond to, you’ll not only have a successful application -- you’ll have a resume with an impressive new line to show to employers.”

Resources to tap include: