Review: The good, the bad and the ugly of Facebook apps

Today's hottest social networking site includes thousands of free applications. Here are the best and worst for business, blogging and more.

A little over a year ago, social networking site Facebook opened its doors to nonstudents, and since that time, businesspeople and the computer-savvy have flocked to it. A big reason for the site's allure is not just the number of people who use it, but also the thousands of applications on the site -- mini applets that use the power of social networking for everything imaginable.

These applications act as extensions to the basic Facebook post-a-profile/read-a-profile functionality. Interested in something serious, such as collaborating on documents, using your friends' collective intelligence to discover useful blogs, or finding freelance developers to help with an IT project? You'll find applications for that. How about the not-so-serious, such as playing Texas Hold 'Em poker or perusing the collected wisdom of Homer Simpson? There's something for you as well.

Where do all these apps come from? Third-party developers think they see gold in Facebook, and they're flocking to write free applications for the site, which is a development platform in its own right. At last count, there were more than 7,000 Facebook applications, and no end in sight to new ones.

It can be tough and time-consuming to weed out the pointless from the useful and the winners from the losers. We're here to help. We've listed for you our favorite Facebook applications in a variety of categories, from the useful to the sublime to the ridiculous.

Check them out, and if you've got the time, head to the Facebook application directory for many more. And let us know your favorite Facebook apps by leaving a comment at the bottom of this article.

Apps for IT folks

Facebook isn't exactly IT-friendly -- you'll find countless applications for giving people virtual "pokes" or rating their hotness factor, but not many that warm the hearts of IT pros. However, there are a few worth trying. At this point, they're not particularly popular, but given Facebook's growing presence in the business world, that may soon change.

Computer Languages
Are you a pro in Python, MySQL, Ruby and PHP? Then let the world (and your boss and potential employers) know about it. Load this app, pick all the languages in the list in which you can program, and choose your expertise in each (from zero to five stars). It's great for impressing not only your boss, but potential employers as well.

FTP Browser
If you're inside Facebook and don't want to have to launch a separate FTP client, try this FTP application. It offers exactly what you'd expect in an FTP client -- copying, moving, deleting, downloading files and directories, and more.

Application Developer Services
It's a bit of a stretch to actually call this an application. Instead, it's a directory of developers and the skills they provide, so it provides an easy way to find someone if you need development work. And if you're advertising your own services, it's a way to try and get work.

At the moment, the pickings are slim, but they may increase in the future.

Apps that can kill your career

Facebook was created for students, not professionals, so it should be no surprise that plenty of applications may not enhance your professional career.

If you care at all about getting ahead at work -- or just keeping your job -- avoid these applications, lest your boss and co-workers see them on your profile.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld

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