Facebook, the next Google?

Google 2.0

One of the fastest growing social networks on the planet just took a big leap of faith. Facebook has officially torn down the walled garden, exposing key APIs enabling developers to extend the current Facebook experience.

This is huge. Facebook is attempting to make the leap from web site to web platform. Their social functionality (friend lists, messaging, etc) and publication space (profiles) are now tools with which developers can forge the next generation of social apps. There are some ‘gotchas.’ For instance, Javascript is not allowed. This is pretty much the norm with all social networks. Sorry. And, if you want to really leverage some of the deep functionality you need to use FBML, their proprietary markup language. I am not a big fan of that, but it’s a start.

Although it is not quite baked, Zuckerberg and Company are on the right track. For folks in the widget economy, this is absolutely huge. We now have the ability and permission to leverage one of the biggest audiences on the social web. Clearspring – for example – has been working with Facebook during the ‘F8 Preview’ of this platform to extend our existing Facebook integration and empower our growing development community with improved viral services and increased distribution reach.

Software juggernaut Microsoft managed to become the de facto desktop platform by successfully leveraging the 3rd party development. If the kids from Facebook can pull off a similar coup, they will go from a destination with tens of millions of users, to one with hundreds of millions of users. Think that’s big? You ain’t seen nothing yet. A couple more well-placed chess moves will position Facebook to compete with the GYM (Google, Yahoo, MSFT) crowd.

What is the next big move? A public offering. They are reportedly in the black. Microsoft has reportedly offered them a rather sizable guarantee (hundreds of millions) in exchange for the right to monetize their search. The fact that they are buying up all the property along University Ave (where their HQ is in Palo Alto), is a firm indicator that they have something far more interesting up their sleeves than a fat acquisition. My prediction is that they will file their S1 by mid-next year. With the capital garnered from an IPO, they will be free to acquire services in core areas (search, commerce, etc), continuing their platform push and giving the digital media world yet another new-comer to worry about.

So let’s assume that this happens. Facebook goes public. How will this impact venture investment in the Web 2.0 space? This would be the first real public liquidity event in a space characterized by acquisition-centric exits (Flickr, YouTube, etc). Will this be the proverbial spark to light the real boom? Will this be a catalyst the likes of the Netscape public offering during Web 1.0? Is Facebook the next Google? I don’t really know. But it sure is fun to think about.

Anyway congrats to Dave Morin and team for pulling it off. See you guys on the flip-side.

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hoomanradfar Written by:

  • ak

    wow. great post. cuts to the quick on the opportunity. how do you feel open ID plays into this? will it finally enable an user to enjoy many networks and perhaps allow third parties to mix and remix data from disparate networks using an users open ID (with his/her permission)?

  • Hooman Radfar

    Thanks AK. Your vision is in line with mine with respect to open networks. Facebook just changed the world. I don't think they realize just how things are about to shift as a result.

    Although they are the first, I most certainly do not think that they will be the last to open APIs. Other networks will begin to open up. Not necessarily in the same way. Remember, Facebook can afford to build a big platform and develop a proprietary language. Others cannot.

    As other platforms open up, standard APIs for querying social graphs will emerge. This will help keep the application separate from a particular social network OS. OpenID may play a role in this, but since it is not a query language, or API optimized for social graph queries, there is more work to do.

    Anyway, I will probably post on this soon. I just had a great chat with some good friends from Charles River on this very issue today.

  • Dan

    Right on, indeed. While MySpace (New$Corp) is quashing innovation and development left and right, Facebook is embracing it.

    We've seen before what this has done (reminds me of the Apple vs. Microsoft days of old, where Apple refused to relinquish total control over licensing their OS to hardware manufacturers).

    In general, New$Corp is just shooting itself in the foot…

  • Hooman Radfar

    Dan, I think that you are on the right track in that NewsCorp does need to change the way it works. That being said, I think that they are more aware of the situation then people think. Without starting any rumors, let's just say that they are definitely working on some things. Although I may have done some things differently, they have managed to figure things out over time. I hope for the sake of competition that they get to their plans soon!

  • You're thinking too small. Facebook is going to take over applications before Google even really gets going. They targeting Microsoft, not the Big G — and they've got a good shot at making it happen.

  • Hooman Radfar

    Fair point. At the end of the day, Facebook is going headlong at the whole GYM crowd. Agree?