Why did Facebook unplug LOLapps games with 150M users?

Facebook has evidently unplugged all the games from popular social game maker LOLapps after the company violated the social network’s terms of service.

We don’t know exactly what that means, but it’s a mystery with a lot of gravitas. LOLapps users are wondering whether they are losing their accounts for their beloved games permanently, or if this is simply a temporary situation.

A thread on the Quora forum site suggested that LOLapps games were able to post game messages to the news feed of a gamer and the gamer’s friends without asking permission from the user. The incident had been reported to Facebook as a bug that LOLapps’ apps were exploiting. Upon investigation, Facebook may have given LOLapps the death penalty, removing all of the San Francisco company’s games from the social network. A conversation on the matter existed on the Quora thread but was then deleted, with an explanation that the matter was resolved some time ago. But the bug report was a fresh one.

Update: In our own Quora query, an anonymous poster said, “They were probably auto-publishing with @[userid:], which is code for creating a mention [1].  A “mention” tags a user, causing the user to both receive an email and see the wallpost.  Apparently in their apps, after inviting friends, the app would auto-publish with the mentions exploit to magnify growth.  As one might imagine, the combination of auto-publishing with the mentions-exploit is extremely powerful, but is also a double-violation of the Terms of Service.  This likely got their applications disabled.”

This is just a possible scenario, and we don’t know for sure if it’s accurate. But it’s plausible, since Facebook cracked down in the spring, banning game applications from spamming notification channels. LOLapps has more than 150 million users for its games, quizzes and gift apps. Facebook has been trying to convince developers that it cares about their apps and wants them to trust that it will create a stable platform. But a ban like this, which is a total surprise, could be a setback for Facebook. If such a ban is possible, would you invest all of your resources making games and apps that run only on Facebook?

Update 2: The Wall Street Journal reported that LOLapps and other app makers were inadvertantly transmitting private user data to internet advertising and tracking companies.

LOLapps has declined comment. So far, a spokesperson for Facebook said only, “We have disabled applications from LOLapps due to violations of our terms.”

The problem is a huge one for LOLapps, which has been launching more games recently as part of an effort to move up the food chain from simple gift and quiz apps to real social games such as Critter Island. Arjun Sethi, chief executive of LOLapps, is scheduled to give a talk about getting apps discovered at our DiscoveryBeat 2010 conference on Monday.