Facebook's New Trojan Horse?

As anyone who knows me will attest, I am a certified Starbucks junkie. I own a Starbucks Gold Card, my Twitter profile page is adorned with a photo of a Starbucks cup, and the manager at the local Starbucks shop greets me like I'm one of her children. So you can only imagine how happy I was to find the My Starbucks app on Facebook several months ago. This app allowed me to proudly display my favorite drink, the grande non-fat Caramel Macchiato, for all my Facebook friends to see. Yesterday morning I received a curious e-mail:

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: My Starbucks <apps+ohiz1c=1@facebookappmail.com>

Date: Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 5:29 AM

Subject: My Starbucks

Thanks for using My Starbucks. We are excited to announce that, as of next week, My Starbucks's name and functionality will be changed to SpeedDate. Data entered into the original app won't be used anymore. Soon you'll be able to try SpeedDate, the fastest way to meet new people, so stay tuned!

Thanks,

My Starbucks

P.S. If you want to opt-out of this app, click here.

---

This email was sent by My Starbucks. You can disable emails here.

Read that again if you need to. It took me several reads for the message to sink in.

My Starbucks, a coffee-focused app, is changing to... SpeedDate??

WHAAATTT?!?! So now this application's 20,000+ monthly active users who put their trust in a coffee app are going to be asked to date each other?

Call me cynical, but this move has all the makings of a trojan horse. My Starbucks worked its way into users' Facebook profiles under the guise of being a coffee aficionado's tool, built up a critical mass of loyal users, then sprung the SpeedDate concept out of nowhere.  Granted they've e-mailed notice to users, but its matter-of-fact tone makes it sound as if this was a natural and obvious move. Given that the viral growth of Facebook apps has slowed considerably as Facebook has cracked down and imposed limits on the mechanisms applications once used to spread, it makes sense that the developers would want to launch SpeedDate with a significant head start rather than starting over from scratch.

Frankly, it's tough to understand how Facebook can let this happen. Users give applications access to their profiles with the understanding that they are going to provide certain types of functionality around a very specific theme. Granted application developers may change the way things work and add new features over time, but if I add TripAdvisor's Cities I've Visited app I would not expect to receive a message later down the road saying they're changing their focus to virtual pets. On the other hand, I could not find anything obvious in the Developer Terms of Service that would prevent such a transition from occurring.

In the event this move is legitimate, it opens up some interesting possibilities in the application marketplace. Potential buyers would no longer need to care about an application's functionality or theme when considering a purchase. What would prevent Mark Cuban from purchasing RockYou!'s Super Wall and its 12 million+ monthly active users in order to build out a new application that promotes the Dallas Mavericks or his HDNet venture?

What's your take? Do you think Facebook will ultimately allow this transition to take place? Do you think they should? Is my outrage over this move fueled by my sadness over losing My Starbucks? Feel free to chime in with your comments below! In the meantime, I'll be heading over to Starbucks for my morning jolt... ;-)

-Chad