Facebook app success is a numbers game

Oxford University researchers have discovered the tipping point at which Facebook users will sign up to a new application en masse, guaranteeing its popularity.

A two month study carried out in 2007 tracked 100m app installations. It found that when an app surpassed 55 installations a day its popularity soared.

Fuelling this process is Facebook’s policy of publishing a list of the current most popular apps which exposes users to global trends, not just local influence through notification of a friends app download.

Researchers rationalised this phenomenon by hypothesising that people display a herding instinct over the software plug ins, choosing to add the same programs as others once they reached a critical mass.

It is speculated that this ‘magic number’ might have wider implications for the purchase of online goods via customer feedback.

Dr Felix Reed-Tsochas told The Scotsman: “Users only appear to be influenced by the choices of others above a certain level of popularity, and at that point, popularity drives future popularity. Below this threshold, the effects of social influence are negligible.”

An app will generally be downloaded 1,000 times on average but the most popular app observed during the survey period, Top Friends, was downloaded by 12m people.

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