Facebook: the platform of people?

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.