This is the first of a series entitled, “The Facebook Effect.” In this installment, I will discuss the first-order impact that the Facebook platform on other social aggregators (MySpace, Friendster, etc). Next, I will discuss how these moves play into the broader standards initiatives popping up around the web. Ivan, get ready for me to wax philosophic. 🙂
The Facebook Platform has changed the Web 2.0 game. Twenty-somethings are back en vogue – demanding insane valuations for applications built from 30 lines of PHP and duct tape. The gold rush has ignited Silicon Valley. A slew of start-ups have risen hoping to cash in. And the world is half-hopeful/half-afraid that the first 800 lb gorilla is finally emerging from the Web 2.0 ecosystem. In short, all eyes are on Facebook.
Well maybe not all eyes. Although the Facebook community is swiftly approaching the 100M user mark, the community outside of Facebook is much larger. MySpace may not be the prettiest girl at the dance, but their registered user base dwarfs that of the rising star by 2-3X. So, the natural question is what will the other Social Aggregators do?
Ultimately, the moves taken by each of these networks will help drive the resulting ecosystem. The way I look at it is that each of these sites will kind of move together in groups. These groups break down as follows:
Group 1: Super-powers (e.g. MySpace)
This group consists of the few mega-powers that have sufficiently large user bases, capital, and influence to introduce a developer platform. There are very few players in this group. Facebook and MySpace are front-runners.
Group 2: Influencers (e.g. Friendster)
This group has a larger membership. Although the sites in this category have sizable user bases, their resources are more limited than group one. This is an important distinction that will help dictate their chess moves. Friendster, LinkedIn, and Multiply are some examples of folks to watch.
Group 3: The Edge (e.g. Itshiphop)
This group is the largest. These are the niche players, up and comers, and small organizations that want social networking functionality. They are scrappy sites that will do anything and everything to differentiate. Oh yea and they have to do it CHEAP.
Superpowers will define the first generation of 3rd party application developer programs. Facebook initiated the cold war. Social Aggregators must now be open (somehow) to 3rd party development. The social graph is no longer closed. This is too big to be left unchecked. MySpace must respond. Reports seem to indicate that MySpace is moving. Rumor has it that the Bebo API is similar to Facebook.
Influencers will fast-follow Superpowers. Their communities are eager to leverage 3rd party applications. However, these networks do not have the same resources (people/money/platform/etc) as Superpowers. As a result, they will favor copying dominant features and designs defined by the Superpowers. Their goal will be to not only leverage R&D from the Superpowers, but also make it simple for developers on the Superpower platforms to convert, or reuse their applications on their networks to minimize their marketing expense and maximize adoption. These guys ultimately help move the industry toward conventions. Folks to watch include Friendster and LinkedIn.
The Edge has minimal resources. They cannot afford to think about what is right. As standard formats, methodologies and services emerge they will jump on board. Until then, they will wait and watch the dance between the Superpowers and Influencers. Some of these folks will turn to ‘white label solutions,’ like Ning, or People Aggregator. Others that prefer to put together their own solutions will wait for open social network query services, widget standards, etc.
– Facebook Platform release initiated a Cold War
– Rival Superpowers like MySpace will react with platforms
– Influencers like Friendster will adopt the proverbial 80%
– The Edge will bite as standard apis/services are available
In the next post, we will talk about some of the key initiatives and standards to look out for as we explore the Edge.