Facebook launches a (widget) platform
The official announcement of what the WSJ reported a few days ago about Facebook's new business direction
has created a lot - no, better make that a ton - of buzz in the blogosphere. And rightly so. It is a major shift in the way social networks like MySpace do business.
Facebook launched "The Platform", a system enabling 3rd party companies to integrate their services inside of Facebook user pages. What does that mean? Read/Write's detailed and interesting post
web points to an excellent FAQ by one of Facebook's 3rd party partners, SplashCast Media, which explains that:
This platform goes beyond the ability to post media from outside into Facebook and it goes beyond the previous Facebook API (a read-only Application Programming Interface (API) released on August 15th, 2006, and at the time also called The Platform). With the new platform, outside companies are now being allowed to deploy advanced functionality inside the Facebook site.
In a bit more of plain English, it means that Facebook just let people build widgets that will work inside their network. Personally, I think it is a bit strange that no one is using the word "widget" when describing it. Not much for semantics myself, but it does seem to fit. The Street, however, puts more value in platforms, right?
With the launch of this new platform, we're seeing a battle of open standards (Facebook) vs control (MySpace). For now it is also the start-up vs big media, but after a long time searching for a buyer, I think this move may finally create the exit opportunity that they've been so desperate to find over the past 24+ months.
My friend John Baker (MP, Client Services, OgilvyInteractive
/ OgilvyOne London) put it this way:
Everyone wants to be a platform -- Google clearly, Amazon on eCommerce, now Facebook on profiles.
I'd bet people would welcome having a single profile instead of 15 -- as long as it isn't brought by Microsoft and called Passport.
As MS seems to be on quite the spending spree, don't count out the return of Passport. Hehe. Seriously, given Yahoo!'s much-hyped failed negotiations with Facebook last year and their current pursuit of Bebo, they seem to be out of the running. Google could certainly afford them, but they seem to have their hands full with the YouTube and DoubleClick deals. Microsoft would be one of a short-list group of media, marketing and technology companies who I think would/should be interested in buying them.
If this new platform model helps Facebook crack the alums business, they're as good as gold and whoever owns them will make a fortune. They've been growing at an incredible pace in the US, and now it is really starting to take off here in Europe
Arrington suggests that Facebook are the Anti-MySpace
. I agree with that. A few people have suggested that this move spells the end for MySpace ... well, I'm not convinced yet.
I think we'll still be talking about MySpace for quite a while. They've cracked the advertising market for social networking dummies and have the power of Murdoch and co. behind them. Their technology works - they don't crash like Friendster did - and they've got an absolutely incredible number of people using it. Expecting their demise in a year is very wishful thinking, I think. (Sorry Chris.) Of course, I could be wrong. Have been before. Will be again.
Fred Stutzman - one of the people whose opinion I value the most with regards to Facebook - wrote a good post
on it a few days ago following the WSJ article, and I've asked him for some additional comments. Stay tuned.
Mashable has an excellent round-up and description
of the first set of apps. If you want to see/try them out, the soon-to-be public page is here: http://apps.f8.facebook.com/apps/
TechMeme is full of links additional commentary
about the story. If you're more interested in what the traditional media have to say, check out this article from Fortune magazine Facebook's plan to hook up the world
or Brad Stone's article
at the New York Times.
Finally, if all this application development means that we wind up having Second Life in Facebook, I'll puke.
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