Facebook only opened up its social network to outside applications last May, but already there are 2,960 of them. And the top apps are being snapped up by larger companies. For instance, Slide acquired an app called Favorite Peeps in June.
The latest rumor in this regard is that TripAdvisor is paying $3 million for a mapping application called Where I've Been. (Update: Looks like this rumor turns out to be not true, but there is obviously a general Facebook feeding frenzy going on). That's would be a nice check for Craig Ulliott, the sole developer who cobbled together the Facebook app in his spare time. It used to be that a few smart engineers could build a Web 2.0 site, and if i took off, Yahoo or Google or some other large company would buy it after a couple years for as much as $30 million. Now all you need to do is build a blockbuster Facebook app, and you can be bought for $3 million after just a few months of work. If you are only one person, and you own the entire company, you could end up with almost as much on an individual basis as if you owned 10 percent of a larger company. The race is now officially on to buy the most successful Facebook apps.
Still, the majority of these Facebook apps are nothing more than features. It's just that anyone can buy a features on Facebook these days, not just Facebook. Where I've Been is a widget you can put on your Facebook page and mark each country or state you've ever visited or lived in, and then show off how well-traveled you are to all your friends. How TripAdvisor plans to make money from that is unclear. But it paid $1.30 for each of Where I've Been's 2.3 million users. That is probably a population with a high percentage of avid travelers, the type of people TripAdvisor would like to lure to its site or sell travel-related advertising against. So really what it bought is a highly targeted list of leads.