VentureBeat is running an opinion piece suggesting that Facebook's platform strategy is a strategic mistake
which got me thinking. I disagree with the author of that piece, David Gal, who claims that the platform strategy is a mistake because it "squanders" rather than helps the core asset of Facebook, which is the community of people. That's difficult to believe, as the platform itself is what's created numerous applications within Facebook that have made the network itself more valuable to those members because it actually gives them something to do with all of their friends, rather than just connect to them. So it's difficult to see how Gal reaches his conclusion. His suggestion that there are just too many applications being developed doesn't really matter, as it's the top applications that are the ones that people find useful, and which they use to add value to the overall network itself.
However, the article did get me thinking about whether or not Facebook has made a strategic mistake with its platform strategy. When the Facebook platform strategy was first announced
, it made a lot of sense. We've been waiting
for someone to build out a true "web platform" (and remain amazed that Google has repeatedly ignored the opportunity). However, while the Facebook platform strategy may have made sense initially, it's way too inwardly focused
. That is, it's been entirely focused on having people build applications within Facebook to get access to its users. What would have been a lot more interesting and a lot more powerful is the ability to build applications for outside
of Facebook that would leverage the power of the people inside Facebook. While I'm sure the short-term view is that Facebook needs to keep people locked in, the long-term benefit needs to be making something that's really useful -- and so far, it's not clear the Facebook Platform has really reached that stage.
As such, perhaps it's not too surprising that many of the more successful Facebook apps to date have really just been focused on games and music, rather than anything all that productive. Turning the community inside out, so that it can take part in activities outside of just the Facebook arena could be a lot more interesting. Right now, Facebook's Platform seems designed to keep people in Facebook so that advertisers get value. But the real opportunity is in using the people in the community to do
something of value and to provide value back to those users as well. Hopefully, that will be the next stage of growth that we see out of the Facebook platform, or expect to see people start to drift elsewhere.