I went to a Facebook developers’ hackathon last night at Thumbplay in New York. I wasn’t the invited participant. Son Jake was. I was merely the chauffeur. Nonetheless, it was a nonvirtual Facebook for me, for I found all sorts of friends there: developer colleague, show-biz pal, investment guy, political geek. Everybody’s into Facebook.

The excitement of having this easy, quick platform and built-in audience and new architecture of content and interaction was palpable. David Henderson of Social Media reminded the group that this has exploded in only 45 days. There have been 125 million app installations and it just keeps growing: more people, more apps. . . . and we haven’t even hit Labor Day and the return to school yet.

What we don’t know is the churn of these apps — only the net growth, not the number who drop off and are replaced. A lot of these apps have a half-life like show business, only accelerated: cool comes and cool goes. But others will become fundamental to this new social architecture. I don’t think the fundamental ones have been invented yet.

There was, of course, a lot of discussion about monetization, with one skeptic in the crowd drawing everyone else’s justification and inspiration regarding revenue: the discussion turned into a human wiki. There’s advertising, of course, and direct-response and barter and loyalty points systems and virtual currencies and also research. Henderson said that at the food fight app, users started with $10 to buy rotten tomatoes but wanted more and so they offered food fight currency in exchange for answering market research questions. To date, he said, they’ve received 20 million responses: 80,000 users per day, 25 per user. That’s what excites them all: instant scale.

There was, of course, much discussion of what Facebook allows and doesn’t allow and what’s behind every decision. Jake chuckled at all the Kremlinology that was going on. “They’re overthinking,” he said. Some things are done just because they’re done, no vast conspiracy.

What excites me most is the prospect of the pipe reversing: using Facebook to help organize the larger social infrastructure that is the web already. I’ve suggested to folks that they use Facebook’s real identity to feed real identity on their sites and forums. One participant said Facebook will plug into the social grid of the web. Or was that vice versa?

  • Hi Jeff,

    Long time reader, first time commenter etc.

    I think you have a point about the explosion of apps. As you were not an avid user in the pre-app days and you are of (ahem) a mature mind-set; you probably won’t remember the fever surround in various and numerous “trendy” groups. This still occurs to some extent but the feverish joining and leaving groups that look cool/funny on ones profile (while not really contributing) seems to have been replaced by adding and removing apps. Similarly these apps are usually not that useful but serve as an expression of individualism – that 120,000 people are also making!

    I am quiet interested in how this shift has affected the groups – my friends seem to have trimmed their groups to those which are of actual use to them. I expect this will happen to the apps when everyone gets over all this initial excitement.

    “I don’t think the fundamental ones have been invented yet.”

    Try Myflickr and Mediafire.


  • The explosion in the use of these social networking sites is amazing. Down here in Australia even politicians are getting into the act. Though this has brought much derision — especially regarding the irony of oldies trying a youngster’s medium to spread their messages.

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  • Hi Jeff,

    Sounds like you have a great consultant and expert adviser in Jake for Facebook and all things tech. Must make you a proud dad. (smile)

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  • Exponentially use these social networking sites is staggering. Here in Australia, until the politicians are not yet complete. And that makes a lot of ridicule, are mainly daughter of ironic way, to spread their messages.