Platform launches are exciting times. A lot of small players turn into big ones as their apps take off and their studios expand from bedroom operations into multi-employee companies. Facebook, iOS and Android have been the biggest ones, but there have been some successes on lesser known platforms such as my own apps on MySpace and BuddyPoke on Orkut and multiple other platforms as well.
I would say that currently one of the most underappreciated platforms is Facebook apps for pages. What are they? Well, nowadays every business is starting to have their own Facebook page. It makes sense to them. Their customers become their fans, and then they have an easy way to promote their products and services to those fans in the future by posting page updates. In case you are confused, pages are distinct from the old Facebook groups, which I are basically being deprecated now in pages' favor. Groups also have a 5000 fan limit, so they are not suitable for serious businesses even if they do stick around.
Each Facebook page has multiple tabs. Tabs that all pages have in common are the Wall and Info tabs. On the Wall the company or brand can post things that might interest their fans, and those posts may get federated to appear on their fans' news feeds depending on the Facebook secret sauce EdgeRank formula. The Info tab is simply a few pieces of information about the business or brand, such as a description of what that brand is or where their homepage and physical addresses are.
So where is the opportunity? Well, you can create custom tabs. These are businesses we are talking about here, so unlike apps for users, it is much more likely that a freemium model would work for Facebook page apps. As for many businesses Facebook pages start to be their central presence online for their business, it is quite easy to imagine that there are some business-specific things they might want to offer on their pages such as reservations, e-mail newsletter sign-ups and the like.
These apps are quite straightforward to create as well. The procedure is quite similar to creating normal Facebook apps, the major difference being that you are not just dealing with users, but "pages" as well. In some cases you are acting as the page, such as when you are presenting content on that page's tab, but in other cases you might represent the user, such as when querying which pages that user has access to administrating. Once you get this permissions flow working, creating these page apps is quite easy.
Better yet, there is not as much competition here as you might expect from such a nice opportunity. The biggest player in the field is Involver with several apps under their belt. But looking at the app listings it does not seem that there is that much competition here yet, at least nothing compared to people making gaming apps for the general public that is much less willing to part with their cash! By asking for the right permissions, you can even have the privilege of posting to page feeds and being able to reach hundreds of fans at once with your app's messages, assuming they are relevant to the page. Seems like a great distribution channel.
I have done two such apps, AirBnB Listings and Fan of the Week. Each took me about one week to create and the process was quite painless. My major stopping point was figuring out how to get the add & permissions flow to work smoothly, but now that I have that sorted out I feel that my next page app will be even less effort than before If you are a developer considering what to develop for, I take a serious look at the Facebook page apps opportunity. There are businesses that could use your apps and are probably willing to pay for them too.