If Facebook's Platform Is A Strategic Mistake, It's In Facing The Wrong Direction

from the not-open-enough dept

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 and waiting and 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.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Dan G, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 2:18pm

    Facebook Applications

    I personally refuse to run any 3rd party applications in my Facebook profile until they do a better job of letting me know what information these things can and cannot access. From what I remember, all you get is a "this application requires access to your personal information to run, allow/deny" confirmation button. And even those stupid "zombie/vampire/werewolf bite" apps cause those to come up. No thanks.

     

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    BlowURmindBowel, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 2:42pm

    Most of the app just suck...

    I for one am sick of all of these damn apps allowing people to send you crap that you can't even access unless you install the POS app.

    I don't want to completely clutter up my profile with a bunch of stupid inane crap, but my friends feel slighted when I deny whatever crap it was they sent me in the first place...

    No, I don't want to race you in some silly 2D app that can barely be considered a 'game' so you can get points to level up to the next car you want that doesn't even impact your ability to play the 'game' but is merely some completely pointless and valueless status symbol, unfortunately the only status that it symbolizes is that you have wasted more people's time than the next jack@$$ that sends me an invite to this pointless app...

    Its enough to make me want to close up shop on all these damn sites once and for all, heres my email address, if that's too basic for you then you can shove your social networking site where the WiFi doesn't reach!

     

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    matt, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 3:01pm

    tough to balance

    As much as having a website be the focus of external applications, thats a tough privacy issue to balance.

    Look at beacon for an example for just how pissed people are that you find out after the fact that a site is giving facebook info without your consent....I've swore off facebook as much as possible for that reason...blocking beacon or not.

     

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      Blaise Alleyne (profile), Mar 5th, 2008 @ 9:58am

      Re: tough to balance

      Exactly.

      I've come to realize that the main reason why Facebook has been so hesitant to take down the walls is that they're afraid of the privacy and security implications. Things are a bit better off, in terms of privacy settings and the like, because Facebook has such a tight control on things. It'll be interesting to see if they can open up their system in a positive way (e.g. data portability and such buzz words) without losing their grip on privacy and security issues.

       

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    Dee, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 3:56pm

    Facebook strategy

    Agreed, most of the applications developed for Facebook currently extend the idiocy of the developer who actually had the time to think up the crap in the first place.

    True, the level of information shared by accepting the app needs to be defined clearer and the reason for this information to be shared also is in desperate need of clarification.

    Facebook does have an events feature though, which allows users to invite and respond to invites to functions offline. I see the value in this, as it extends your message quick enough to your target audience, which is great and to many, cheaper than calling everyone.

    I have also managed to start a Facebook group, called CheapTrip.co.za. The group has grown fairly rapidly enjoying the benefit of viral marketing and has successfully managed to attract new unique users to my website, thus turning it into revenue.

    The success of the viral marketing comes in light with the "Six degrees of separation" theory being proved almost hauntingly too often by meeting old friends through friends of friends.

    I think applications displaying movie schedules, and flight status updates, or train schedules, exam time tables, assignment updates etc are the kind of thing that could add value to Facebook and perhaps thousands of companies will start allowing its employees to use Facebook again during office hours.

     

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    Ethan Bauley, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:10pm

    Facebook v. Open Social

    F8 is strategically lame because the platform is limited to facebook only.

    The eventual platform "killer app" (NOT scrabulous) will need to leverage data from multiple networks, not just one.

    [although wouldn't scrabulous on facebook be better...if users from any social net could play together?]

    Umair Haque said all of this 4 months ago:

    http://www.bubblegeneration.com/2007/11/research-note-opensocial-vs-facebook.cfm

     

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    Ethan Bauley, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:12pm

    Of course Mike has also said this, and probably a while ago as well...

    Just sayin'

    ;-)

     

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    ed, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 6:31pm

    google?

    Umm, doesn't Google already have a social networking site called Orkut that does basically everything you're talking about?

     

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    bunnyhero (profile), Mar 5th, 2008 @ 8:37pm

    Facebook's JavaScript Client Library might enable

    I haven't investigated this yet, but I think that this beta feature announced here should allow apps on other websites to use Facebook data, if I'm reading this part correctly:
    This applies to either iframe Facebook apps that users access through the Facebook web site or apps that users access directly on the app’s own web sites. [emphasis added]

     

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