Facebook to remove all third party apps?

I heard a rumor "from a usually reliable source" that Facebook is about to announce that they will be removing all third party applications, and only providing Facebook apps to users from now on. No more Causes, Friendwheel, Superpoke, Funwall, Bookmooch, ... and thousands of other third party apps.

Supporting this rumor is weird behavior of Facebook disabling third party apps for no clear reason as reported regularly by Techcrunch. Also, there is some belief that the Facebook folks are clueless, and that the new management there is desparate to try anything.

I don't believe it. I don't believe it because it would be moving Facebook back to being a walled garden, would remove fabulous functionality (along with lots of silly functionality), and would make the platform significantly less interesting to users. Evidence for a continuing robust support for third party apps is the Facebook developer website and conference, and Facebook's stated commitment to open access.

However, the mere fact that such a rumor is out there is an interesting comment on the tech industry and Facebook itself. Why would we even believe such a possibility? Do we really believe there may be some sane reason for such a move? Could there be? That frisson of possibility keeps the rumor alive, just like the possibility that Exxon will switch from oil wells to renewable sources such as algae.

Here is my conjecture: if Facebook is really looking to do something shocking and possibly ground breaking, they will start charging third party apps for access. If I was doing this as Facebook, I would charge per user per month. I would give each app six months free up to 50,000 users (ie if you reach 50,000 users before 6 months the free period is over). Upon reaching the end of the free period I would charge you some number of cents per user per month, and then leave it to you, the app developer, to come up with a monetization strategy.

F8, the developers' conference is in a couple of weeks... let's see what happens.

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