After more than a year at the top, FarmVille has been knocked off as the most popular app on Facebook.

FarmVille, Facebook, Zynga: It’s like the internet’s own Axis of Evil, if we defined evil as how annoyed “real gamers” get with cheap, low-quality online games and the hordes of mouse-clicking zombies who love them. But take heart, defenders of the faith, because it looks like the FarmVille juggernaut may not be quite as invulnerable as it once appeared.

FarmVille grabbed the top spot on Facebook on August 2009 and has held onto it ever since, peaking with 84 million monthly active users earlier this year. But the game was hammered in March by the loss of third-party notifications which kept Facebook users abreast of happenings in the game and, by extension, drew them into the action. Despite brave talk from Zynga CEO Mark Pincus about the downturn being temporary, it’s been bleeding users ever since and at last count was down to 53.9 million monthly active users – nothing to sneeze at but no longer numero uno.

FarmVille has been usurped by Phrases, an app that lets users post images, quizzes and other such fun stuff on their Facebook page and that’s managed to ring up 54.3 million MAU. That makes it the king of the castle for the moment at least, although FarmVille remains the biggest game on Facebook. And despite its dwindling numbers it may soon be back as the Big Fig Newton as well, because Phrases developer Takeoff Monkey recently and without explanation disabled the app for U.S. users. Because of that, Phrases’ “daily active user count is dropping fast,” according to Gamasutra, which noted that the app is in danger of falling even further back than second place if U.S. audiences remain locked out.

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