Nine Million Facebook Apps. Which to Use?
As if we don't spend enough time on Facebook, more than 9 million apps and websites are integrated with Facebook to suck you farther into the social network. While winnowing that vast number down to a handful of the best ones is no small feat, here's a good start.
These Facebook apps are favorites of PCWorld writers and editors, see incredible traction with users according to AppData (the Facebook traffic monitoring site), or are notably useful or fun and yet probably not on your radar. All are available in free versions, though you get more features with some if you pay. Enjoy.
Like Instagram for video, Viddy lets you upload 15-second videos, apply cinematic filters to stylize the footage, select custom overlays and audio effects from your favorite celebrities, and share your creation on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Since recently launching its Facebook Timeline app, Viddy has seen interactions with its content skyrocket on the social network. It now has more than 4 million users signing on and an average of 100,000 new users a day.
In hot competition with Viddy is Socialcam, an iPhone app integrated with Facebook that is enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity. In fact, within the past few days, its user count is rumored to have eclipsed 10 million.
The company recently released several updates, too. Now videos load when a user hovers over them, and they play directly within the app's main feed instead of in a different window.
Another slick--albeit less well known--tool for sharing video is Magisto, which uses computer-vision technology to analyze a few minutes of your video footage. It chooses the best scenes; stabilizes your images; removes noise; and adds effects, transitions, and music.
Once Magisto has finished crafting your video masterpiece, you can use Facebook Connect to tag faces of friends; and you can post the video on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, or share it via email. While Magisto is not for people who are sticklers for artistic detail, it's perfect for anyone who likes to have fun with video but doesn't want to mess with time-consuming editing software.
Magisto recently launched integration with Facebook's Timeline, so you can dedicate a section of your Timeline scrapbook to your Magisto clips.
Wix (Business or Hobby)
With the Wix Facebook app, you can make your hobby or business pages look amazing by taking advantage of of templates, sleek graphics, animation, menus, and more.
More than 200,000 people are official fans of the app, and it's no wonder--Wix is free.
ContactMe offers another way to improve your organization's Facebook page, by adding a contact form that makes helps anyone engaged with your page reach out easily.
This highly customizable tool lets you determine which sharing method visitors can use and which social media they can directly link to.
For a fee, you can also remove the ContactMe branding and receive a text message when someone uses the contact form.
RSS Graffiti (Business or Groups)
Want to share content automatically from your blog to your Facebook profile, fan pages, and groups? RSS Graffiti is an extremely popular app for publishing multiple RSS/ATOM feeds to your walls.
Version 2.0 was just released, and it is rolling out to more than 1.5 million people who use the app every month.
A Facebook page for a business or organization can never have too many fans and visitors.
Woobox lets you create promotions that encourage sharing and more exposure for your brand through coupons, sweepstakes, polls, group deals, custom tabs, and more. Its FriendGate feature requires visitors to persuade a certain number of their friends to like your page before they can receive an offer. It also has several different ways of rewarding sweepstakes participants who get their friends to enter.
Woobox is available as a free version that gives you a custom tab and coupons; for $29 a month, you get everything Woobox offers. Woobox also has a free Pinterest page app and an HTML Fangate Page app.
You might expect this app to be in the Eye Candy category; but if your business sells products that can be visualized, it makes sense to use Pinterest's massive popularity to your advantage.
The site, which integrates with Facebook, is geared toward shopping and has a Gifts tab that lets people sort items by price. It's also a good medium for strengthening relationship with fans. For instance, Mashable has garnered more than 24,000 followers since jumping onto the Pinterest platform in December.
Aviary (Eye Candy)
Facebook made headlines when it recently bought Instagram for $1 billion, but plenty of other apps can quickly transform your uninspiring photos into artistic masterpieces.
Take Aviary, for example. Its Facebook app gives users access to editing tools, photo effects, and stickers from within their Facebook accounts. Users can edit photos from existing albums or upload new photos, and the app automatically saves the updated images in an "Aviary" album.
In its latest update, Aviary added a custom crop tool that lets you perfectly cut out your Facebook Timeline cover photo.
Kaptur (Eye Candy)
If you've taken a group trip or attended an event with others and later wanted to aggregate all of the photos taken by your friends, Kaptur is worth checking out.
The app uses Facebook album titles, captions, and tags to assemble collections of pictures from specific events. When you click on photos, Kaptur uses an algorithm to search for similar images and then create an album that you can edit, turn into a music-infused slideshow, or share and transform into a photo book.
Kaptur is especially popular for wedding photo collections, because it lets newlyweds find and gather thousands of photos and videos posted online by their guests.
StumbleUpon (Eye Candy)
For years, people have been using StumbleUpon to discover interesting Web content. But recently, the handy service launched a Facebook Timeline integration; so now, whenever you like a page, follow a new interest, channel, or use Stumbler, all your Facebook friends will know about it.
Want to get in on this "frictionless sharing?" Just go to your StumbleUpon settings page, and either connect your account to Facebook or select add my activity to Facebook Timeline.
Dailymotion (Eye Candy/Video)
Sometimes called the YouTube of Europe, the French online video site Dailymotion gets more than 114 million unique monthly visitors, and its viewers have watched more than 1.2 billion videos worldwide. According to the Facebook Developer Blog, since January--when the social video site integrated with Open Graph--more than 9 million people have added the app to their Facebook Timelines.
Not only that, but French network operator Orange has announced that it is negotiating to buy nearly half of the YouTube competitor for $80 million so as to improve the content that it offers mobile and fixed broadband customers. If you like YouTube, give Dailymotion a shot--it's full of great content and has features on a par with YouTube's.
Pixable (Eye Candy)
Sick to death of inane posts from Facebook friends who clearly have too much time on their hands? Use the Pixable app to turn your stream into a visually compelling place that compiles only the images that your buddies have uploaded?
You can sort these images via filters such as tagged males or females, recently uploaded profile pictures or cover photos, or popularity. Pixable uses a ranking and crawling technology that figures out what has interested you in the past, which relationships you value most, and what things you have in common with others, and it uses that information to serve you content that you'll actually like. On top of all that, it gets smarter the more you use it.
Soundrop resembles one of PCWorld's Best Products of 2011, the U.S.-only Turntable.fm. Soundrop works in more countries, however, and the Soundrop jukebox app is actually inside the popular Spotify music service.
New features for Soundrop let you search for a specific room, find rooms playing music where your friends are hanging out, create your own rooms, and edit and bookmark rooms.
Note: PCWorld also included Spotify on its Best Products list because that service provides instant access to any song, album, or radio genre.
Not so long ago, Facebook was primarily about socializing with friends; the network wasn't a good place to do career networking. Today, that's no longer the case. In fact, with more than 25 million Facebook users, BranchOut is LinkedIn's biggest competitor. In some ways it's better than LinkedIn.
For example, with BranchOut you don't need to build your network one person at a time. Instead, the app automatically connects you with your existing Facebook contacts. It's a good tool for finding a job, too, as it has about 3 million job listings, lets you see the companies where your friends work, and identifies how many job openings are available at those organizations.
As a social network, BranchOut displays your friends' profile information, including their work histories. So if you all don't want to share that level of detail, BranchOut may not be for you.
BeKnown comes from Monster, so if you have a profile on the Monster network, you can seamlessly import it to Facebook. If you don't, BeKnown will build your profile from whatever relevant information you included on your Facebook profile.
If you haven't shared much there, you must manually input résumé-type data just as you probably have on LinkedIn. Admittedly, this can be tiresome.
BeKnown puts friends in your network only if you specifically choose them and only if they agree to connect with you. In these ways, it doesn't feel as slick as BranchOut, yet many Facebook users like it all the same.
Facebook Messenger (Communication and News)
You might wonder why you'd need a messaging app in addition to the official Facebook app on your smartphone. The answer: You can use Facebook Messenger for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone to send time- and location-stamped messages to groups of your Facebook friends--and it works faster than SMS or email.
The app also logs your chats inside Facebook, whether you use your phone or your desktop PC. You can send new photos, photos you've saved on your phone, or images that you find using Bing search.
Even people who don't use smartphones can reply to messages, simply by confirming their mobile phone number to activate Facebook texts.
The Washington Post Social Reader (Communication and News)
There are scads of ways to read news in Facebook--and this one, in particular, has taken some heat for automatically posting or oversharing what users read to their Timelines and News Feeds.
Nevertheless, the Washington Post Social Reader is more journalistically solid than some others and has a pleasant interface, compared to say, WSJ Social, which not only feels clunky but also states from the outset that its news app is free "for a limited time."
As for those pesky privacy concerns, you can adjust the privacy settings for each app that you use on Facebook, and this news reader lets you check a box at the end of any story to 'Remove from your reads'.
Privacyscore (Security and Reputation Management)
Oversharing on Facebook and apps that don't protect user privacy are in the news. If you're not sure which apps to avoid, a brand new tool called Privacyscore can help.
Type the name of any app you're using to see how it rates. If you want to bust a popular one that your friends are using, you can post that app's score to your wall in two clicks. (To disable any low-scoring apps that have access to your Facebook account, click the small arrow at the top right of your screen and then choose Privacy Settings, Apps and Websites, Apps you use.)
Secure.me (Security and Reputation Management)
Even the most careful Facebook users can unwittingly share too much information online and damage their reputations with friends or potential employers.
I consider myself a judicious Facebook user, but when I scanned my account with the free Secure.me app, it found nearly 50 threats to my online reputation.
Among the things that trigger the app's alarms are posts to Facebook from a third-party app; revealing information in your profile about the status of your relationship, religion, or political affiliation; and posts that you or your friends have made that may reflect poorly on you, directly or by association.
Profile Protector (Security and Reputation Management)
Most tech-savvy Facebook users know better than to fall for a phishing scam on Facebook, especially one involving a ridiculous offer such as a free iPad giveaway. Still, even smart people do sometimes get lured into clicking enticingly shocking or salacious posts.
If this has ever happened to you, or if you've seen your friends fall victim, you know what a demeaning--and potentially damaging--situation it can be. Profile Protector will warn you about suspect activity going on in your account before you click something that could cause trouble.
Draw Something (Games)
Essentially a mobile riff on the game Pictionary, the wildly popular Draw Something challenges players to draw a picture for other players to guess.
The game has been downloaded more than 50 million times, and its maker recently updated it with features that let you save your favorite finger sketches, comment on other players' drawings, and upload pictures directly to Facebook and Twitter. You might be surprised at your friends' artistic talents--or lack thereof.
Candy Crush Saga (Games)
Though calling particular games the best ones on Facebook is highly subjective, we can at least consider a few that, according to AppData's Inside Social Games, have been topping the charts recently.
First up: Candy Crush Saga is fun even though it feels as though you should be about six years old to play it. Hang in there, and you'll find the pattern-matching game is slightly addictive, though a bit too easy with the cheats it provides in the primary levels.
Lucky Gem Casino (Games)
Lucky Gem Casino is perfect for people who like the idea of crossing their fingers and hoping to win virtual slot machine credits--and score free spins and bonuses--while chatting with other gamers.
About a million daily users have been playing for the past month, but recently this app has garnered more players--probably thanks to to the addition of a new Monopoly-themed minigame.
Marvel: Avengers Alliance (Games)
Disney Playdom's Marvel: Avengers Alliance has seen a spike in player interest coinciding with the marketing surrounding the highly anticipated film, The Avengers, which opened in the United States last weekend.
Have a favorite Facebook app that didn't make this list? Share it in the comments, and please tell what you especially like about the app.
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