The app economy generates big bucks for Facebook’s most prolific developers. Thanks in large part to virtual goods, the companies which develop some of Facebook’s most popular apps are reportedly pulling in over $100m/year individually.

But what’s good for Facebook’s app developers isn’t necessarily good for Facebook’s users. App developers are understandably willing to go as far as Facebook will allow them to in their quest to acquire more users and generate more revenue.

This has led to a lot of ‘app spam‘ and in some cases, what can only be described as ‘app hell‘. In the past, Facebook has made changes designed to keep app developers in check but arguably, none of these changes went as far as the changes Facebook announced yesterday.

They are:

  • No more notifications, which app developers loved but which was also the most potent source of ‘app spam‘.
  • Invitation requests for applications will now be sent to an easier-to-ignore ‘Invites‘ section of the inbox.
  • The boxes tab on user profiles is being tossed.
  • Elimination of the Verified Application Program with more rigid checks of compliance with Facebook’s rules across the board.

Developers are being given some goodies in return, such as the ability to acquire email addresses directly from users who install their applications. But overall, the changes announced are unlikely to make the biggest and most successful app developers happy. According to TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, there’s talk that these changes could cause ‘foot traffic‘ on some apps to drop by 70%. That might explain why Mark Pincus, the CEO of one of the most successful app developers, Zynga, reportedly cancelled a talk at the Harvard Business School when he learned of what was coming.

But what’s potentially bad for Zynga and other developers is not necessarily bad for users. Facebook is the king of social networking right now but the service has arguably been taken over by third party developers. Facebook is trying to find some balance. While Facebook can’t turn its back on developers, it’s nice to see that it’s focusing on the people who matter the most: end users.

Photo credit: Duane_Brown via Flickr.