To feed my Facebook obsession: the unofficial Facebook blog. (via Martin Stabe)
Posts about facebook
Seth Goldstein writes an inspired post today about Facebook’s chances of becoming the platform for people. First, he sets the scene:
Meanwhile, the kids who treated their MySpace profile, and concomitant friend requests, with the same reckless abandon that we have done with our LinkedIn profiles, have now de-camped for Facebook. While I don’t have fresh data on hand to support this hunch, the well-sourced rumor I heard last week about MySpace scrambling feverishly to open their API’s reinforces what is becoming obvious: MySpace’s Kremlin-esque behavior towards 3rd party widget developers -”we buy them or we crush them!”- is on a crash course with the debauched dirty-dancing going on amidst the MySpace spring-breakers. As these kids move from junior high to high school, from high school to college, and from college to the work force, they are increasingly choosing the meritocratic social logic of Zuckerberg over MySpace’s “hot or not?” popularity contest
There can be little doubt now that Facebook is a platform for social media, as opposed to simply a web site community.
He then talksa bout what it takes to make a platform.
In 1999 I sat down with Brad Silverberg of Ignition VC who Microsoft recruited out of Borland in the early 90′s to become the lead developer and project manager of Windows 95. Never has there been a more valuable platform. He described 3 things that platforms needed to have:
* wide distribution
* application developers making money
* good tools
Let’s test those three axioms against the preeminent platform play of our time, Google:
* Wide distribution? YES
* Application developers making money? YES (if you count all the adsense publishers)
* Good tools? YES (all the adwords and adsense self-service goodness)
Now let’s test these axioms against Facebook:
* Wide distribution? YES
* Application developers making money? NO (at least not yet, I will comment on 3rd party Facebook developers such as Slide, Rockyou, and AttentionSoft)
* Good tools? YES
So, the question for establishing Facebook’s value as a platform is no longer whether Facebook itself can make money but whether its developers can do so. . . .
Nobody controls the web as a platform the way that Microsoft controlled the desktop. But certain parties do control enormous pools of user data and direct their behavior…API’s are fountains of data, mostly consumer meta data, that are the byproduct of some other functionality… The value of a web service API is tied to its ability to convert granular feeds of individual data into useful social media contexts. . . . Google does not offer this Social Media API. Facebook does.
That is the opportunity.
: A few more Facebook links:
* Mashable pits MySpace against Facebook, judging design, media, community, usefulness, and ease of use. Guess who wins.
* From a few days ago, Watchmojo tracks Facebook’s growth and says that 100 million users is not a question of whether but when.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg this week stated that the site was growing 3% per week, adding 150,000 users per day. Given the exponential nature of social networks, if the site is indeed growing 3% per week, and currently has 24M users, then by our calculation Facebook will have 100M users by February, 2008. Please note this is an exponential forecast: it calls for a 3% growth on the 3% growth… I also did less conservative forecasts etc., but for the sake of this post, this is for purposes of illustration and not an actual forecast that “Facebook WILL have 100M users, and it will by Feb 2008.”
They then go on to speculate on valuation. That’s anybody’s game.
* And I just started reading Inc. Magazine’s cover story on the Facebook that wasn’t, Friendster, and its founder, Jonathan Abrams.
It’s not easy being the brains behind one of the biggest disappointments in Internet history. Sure, there are those who describe you as a visionary, but in the same breath they’ll deride you as a lousy businessman. Bloggers attack you, call you “a real asshole” and “a very lucky idiot savant.” Former investors badmouth you. Other entrepreneurs copy your ideas without giving you credit. The New York Times makes reference to your “ballooning ego” and the local Fox affiliate can’t even get your name right.
Jonathan Abrams–founder of Friendster, the first online social network, and a pioneer of one of today’s hottest trends on the Web–tries his best not to think about these things.
My Guardian column this week tries to dissect the genius of Facebook:
At Davos this year, a powerful newspaper publisher beseeched Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder of the hugely successful social network Facebook, for advice on how he could build and own his community. The famously laconic Zuckerberg replied “You can’t.”
Zuckerberg went on to explain that communities already exist and the question these magnates should ask instead is how they can help them to do what they want to do. Zuckerberg’s prescription was “elegant organisation”. That is what he brought to Harvard’s community when he started Facebook, then to more colleges, high schools and companies (including half the BBC, which has 10,000 friends, says its director of global news Richard Sambrook). And now it is open to the rest of us.
I finally joined Facebook and have become obsessed with Zuckerberg’s creation. Until last autumn, one could join only with a university “edu” address. As a professor, I finally got that. Once inside, though, it felt terribly lonely; I had no friends. But since Facebook opened up, a flood of fellow old cronies have joined. So I spent a weekend morning inviting people I knew to be my Facebook friends – which would mean that we could see each other’s pages and follow each other’s actions in the service – and what floored me was the speed with which they replied. In a day I had 150 friends. What’s notable about that is not that I’m liked but that these 150 people were on Facebook within a weekend. They, too, were addicted.
What is Facebook’s secret sauce? I think it starts with identity. On the otherwise anonymous and pseudonymous internet, this is a place where real identity matters: I use my name and I associate with people whom I actually know. Soon after I started, I got invitations from strangers and asked my blog readers about the etiquette of responding. I was told that, in school, one accepts all invitations, because you are all in the same institution and it’s rather like an arms race; school is, after all, a popularity contest. But we newcomer adults already seem to be developing a rule (borrowed from the similar business site LinkedIn) that we should befriend only those we know; it is an endorsement. So we are the masters of of our identities and our communities, which establishes trust. I think internet users have been yearning for such control.
Next, Facebook introduced what it calls a newsfeed, filled with simple updates about what your friends have done on the service: one posted a photo, another a video, two more befriended the same person, four others started using a feature. This was controversial when introduced – mainly because users were surprised by the change – but now it is popular, even essential. Zuckerberg says it is not news as we know it, but it has news value: if four friends I respect start using a program, that’s good enough reason for me to look at it. As one blogger said, this isn’t the wisdom of crowds but the wisdom of my crowd. It is like the talk around the cracker barrel in a frontier general store: the protonews of my small society.
Finally, a few weeks ago, Facebook turned itself into a platform. That is, it enables anyone to create applications on top of the service. Already there are scores of aps hooking up users’ information with other services such as calendars, maps, chat, music, news, shopping, and much more. Every media, entertainment and web company needs to figure out how Facebook can help their communities. It is not just about widgetising content – the latest web 2.0 fad – but about people doing things together.
Zuckerberg’s ambition for Facebook -which he has so far refused to sell, even though it is said he has been offered more than $1bn – is nothing less than for it to become the social operating system of the web, the Google of people. If the service opens up yet more – if it becomes the twine to tie together my lives online in my blog, my work, my town, YouTube, Flickr, Del.icio.us, Amazon, eBay, Twitter, and more – then his ambition may be attainable. That would be elegant organisation indeed.
I have spent this weekend in awe of — and devoting too many hours to — Facebook.
I joined sometime ago, as soon as I got an .edu address at CUNY, back when that was still required. But it was a lonely and pathetic existence, reminding me all too much of freshman mixers at my then-men’s college. I had no Facebook friends. It was all the worse because I wanted to explore the phenom of Facebook and couldn’t without links to people. It’s a people place. I wanted to stand on a virtual campus corner with sad and wide eyes asking whether anyone would be my friend. But that would have gotten me arrested.
Then Facebook opened up to the rest of us. And last week, it announced its platform, which seems to have caused lots of people to suddenly dive in (at least in my geek/capitalist/media circles).
So I asked appropriate people — that is, people I actually know — in my address book to be my friend, which for some reason on Facebook seems to feel less like human spam than on LinkedIn. And then as people agreed to be my friend — they like me, they really like me — I found connections to more friends. And a few people I don’t know befriended me. In a little over 24 hours, I had 187 friends.
What’s significant about that is not that I’m so popular but that Facebook is. This demonstrates clearly that those 187 people are as addicted to the service as I’ve quickly become. They were online using it on a holiday weekend and responded instantly. I’ve never seen anything like it. Of course, there’s nothing new in this; people have been amazed at Facebook since it started. It’s just that I finally get to join the in crowd.
What is new is the platform and its is quickly proving to be remarkable as well. As I said yesterday, my son, Jake, has created a few applications and the response has been impressive: As of lunchtime Monday, 6,500 people were using his Last.fm ap and because it’s not yet on the approved list, that means it grew strictly from being on TechCrunch — no small promotion — and then virally. Interesting to watch the reaction of the two companies he apped. LastFM users were impatient that they didn’t have an ap so they started using Jake’s, gratefully. Then along came LastFM the company and they were nice but asked him to take off their logo. Meebo, on the other hand, was nicer; they said they’d promote his ap. Which one passes the 2.0 test? Meebo, I’d say. The more your users use you — the more you are an API — the better. Then a few other companies and even two VCs contacted him to ask for help or just to compliment him, which is all very cool. (/dad bragging)
And no wonder there’s such interest: Facebook becomes a platform for viral distribution of actions. I can think of a dozen companies that out there that out to be doing three dozen things here, and I’ve emailed a few of them. Keep in mind that this isn’t just about putting some damned widget on a page, it’s about interacting with the content and the person behind it in more than one way: You can put content on my page for me and my friends, but that’s just the starting point. Or you can use what I’ve said about myself on my page to serve me better. Or you can interact with other applications in smarter ways. Or you can expose the action around my page to say more about the people here. If your ap’s any good, thousands will use it. If not, no one will.
As impressed as I am with the platform, I still wish it were more open. I want to combine my presence on Facebook with my presences on my blog, del.icio.us, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, iTunes, Daylife, Amazon, eBay, and lots of other places — that is beginning on the platform — but I also want them to interact with each other and with my friends’ presences in those places to see what surprises result. Maybe I start to see that my friends are buying the same books. Or I put together a Twitter group for an event. Or I find that my blog readers who are in my same group are going to the same event.
It’s said that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has a vision for his service to become the social operating system of the web, the Google of people. Mark talks about bringing communities elegant organization. I say the internet already is a community of communities and there’s a winning strategy in bringing it elegant organization. But that’s different from making everyone come to you and join your service behind your closed walls. Granted, those closed walls have an advantage when it comes to people: I’m not friends with the world, only those I say are my friends (and only if they agree). But I need to be in charge of my identity and my relationships. Facebook started down that road. But it hasn’t yet arrived. At Davos, I heard Zuckerberg tell a big-time newspaper publisher that he couldn’t build a community; he had to serve a community that is already there and bring it, again, elegant organization. One more time: The internet is that community.
This also has big implications for publishers, portals, governments, and companies that interact directly with customers. This is about more than “widgetizing” your content in hopes people will publish it on their pages — though that’s a smart strategy as far as it goes. I’m writing about this in my Guardian column this week, which I’ll put up soon. It’s also about going to people instead of expecting them to come to you. And it’s about thinking beyond content to functionality: How can you turn yourself into an API? Shouldn’t news be something we use in new ways?
I’ve only begun to get my head around the possibilities of the Facebook platform — and I think that Facebook has only begun to open it up. This points to a new architecture to the web, an architecture built around people instead of content, the public instead of the companies. It’ll be exciting to watch and I’m glad I’m finally on the inside to watch it.
: LATER: Mediapost reports on Washington Post and Slate’s political applications on the Facebook platform. (I just tried to add one of them but high use overloaded the Post’s servers.)
Question for longtime Facebook users: What’s the proper etiquette when someone you do not know asks to befriend you? On LinkedIn, most people I know will link only with people they know, because that linkage might act as a recommendation, an endorsement, a reference. What’s the case on Facebook? Is it like Friendster, with an arms race of friends, the more the better? Or is it like LinkedIn, where the relationships and history matter? And if I agree to befriend someone I don’t know, is it then proper and necessary to say I don’t know them? Or is that rude?
(signed) New kid on the block
My son, Jake, and I were chatting about the Facebook Platform in my home office the other night. He was sitting on the couch with his laptop; I was at my desk writing on mine. This is what passes for paternal bonding in bloggers’ homes. Little did I know what he was working on: With the ease with which I would doodle, he was coding up a Facebook ap for Last FM, which promptly got written up by Michael Arrington in TechCrunch, making a larger point that LastFM isn’t delivering aps but its users are. And last night, he coded up a Meebo Facebook ap. By the way, the LastFM ap has 2,000 users but it hasn’t been officially approved by Facebook. Wazzup?
At the same time, Jake has redesigned his Middio application, a search engine for music videos on YouTube. Do go check it out. Soon he’ll be adding a commercial element and I’ll tell you that story.
The creation generation, indeed.