Facebook must be stopped!Posted: September 23, 2007
Back in June, I made a quick note about Facebook related to a brief musing about LinkedIn:
“…it looks like to me that Facebook is on it’s way to becoming the central location for your online persona and people connections. It’s really a pain to replicate your network on each social networking site. Given the speed of Facebook’s growth and it’s easy of use, and now open platform, it’ll probably become everyone’s social networking hub within five years.”
Since then, there has been a flurry of activity around the notion of the “social graph.” Bob pointed me to Live Journal’s Brad Fitzpatrick who recently wrote a manifesto around the social graph. His idea of a social graph service is now being built at Google. Plaxo released a new version of their universal address book to allow people to keep track or their social networks. Six Apart just announced that they’re opening up their social graph. Now TechCrunch reports that Google is looking to kill Facebook by using Fitzpatrick’s social graph service as a weapon:
Google’s goal – to fight Facebook by being even more open than the Facebook Platform. If Facebook is 98% open, Google wants to be 100%.
The short version: Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.
My goodness. Silicon Valley if freaking over Facebook’s growth. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next year. I doubt Facebook will be slowed much in the near term by these maneuvers. But they will no doubt face a ton of pressure to make their social graph transportable given their competitors, in effect, colluding to undermine Facebook by opening their networks. I predict Facebook won’t give in. Mega corps (even though they’re not mega quite yet), don’t like giving away the crown jewels. And their social graph is just that.
Ironically, I think a closed network could be Facebook’s downfall. Keeping their network closed will eventually piss off the open source community. They’ll flock to other social networking services that are open and standards based (open-ID, hCard, XFN, FOAF) and those will be the ones they promote to their non-tech friends and family. It’ll be death by a thousand cuts.
Personally, I think Facebook should just open up. They can do it slowly, on their terms. They’ll reap the PR benefit and see little loss in growth. This will allow Facebook to focus on apps development. No, not making it even easier for third party developers to build. But making Facebook more useful for its different populations. For example, I’d like to be able to tag different networks within Facebook. My business network, my friends network, my family network, my photography network, etc. Each network should have different applications to ease communication and watching specific to that population.
Right now, I have little reason to visit Facebook on a daily basis. My news feed tells me nothing other then the boring things my friends are doing on the network (like adding a third party app or connecting to someone). I don’t care about that sillieness. I care about what people are doing with their life. This is why I check blog feeds from my friends/contacts religiously on a daily basis via my feed reader. The only population that behaves in a similar way on Facebook today are college students. Facebook has a long way to go to make their app interesting for the rest of their demographics. Protecting their network, will just slow them down in my opinion.
It’ll be very interesting to see what happens next.