Kottke and Wilson are wrong
Two bloggers who I respect and read on a regular basis have both posted about different aspects of Facebook in the past few days. And they've both got it wrong.
Jason Kottke posts
and then clarifies
his comparison of Facebook and AOL. It is an interesting comparison, but I don't agree with it at all. Essentially, he argues that Facebook is a closed network in which everything that happens is private and inside a walled garden ... and he thinks that's a bad thing.
Think of it this way. Facebook is an intranet for you and your friends that just happens to be accessible without a VPN. If you're not a Facebook user, you can't do anything with the site...nearly everything published by their users is private. Google doesn't index any user-created information on Facebook.2 AFAIK, user data is available through the platform but that hardly makes it open...all of the significant information and, more importantly, interaction still happens in private. Compare this with MySpace or Flickr or YouTube. Much of the information generated on these sites is publicly available. The pages are indexed by search engines. You don't have to be a user to participate (in the broadest sense...reading, viewing, and lurking are participating).Kottkes' got it wrong
Faced with competition from this open web, AOL lost ... running a closed service with custom content and interfaces was no match for the wild frontier of the web.
AOL limited people's access and created a "safe" environment for one reason: control. Other than a dinosaur-like desire to have more control over what people do online in an attempt to profit from it, there was no reason for AOL to create their walled garden and limit people's access to the web.
There is a reason why Facebook is a walled garden: Members want control and in most cases don't want all the information they publish made available to the public.
That's a pretty fundamental difference, don't cha think?
Jason compares YouTube and MySpace to Facebook and concludes that the former are more open. With regards to MySpace, I agree to some extent. But, it is hard to compare YouTube with Facebook. That's apples and oranges to me.
In terms of calling MySpace more open than Facebook, it might be more open to the public (as in Google and others can index/search the site), but it is a long way from being as open as Facebook in terms of allowing 3rd parties to work with the service.
Fact is, Facebook's new platform is incredibly open when compared to MySpace, LinkedIn and countless other networks. Allowing developers to create and publish widgets and other applications was a bold move. Sure, the interaction and content is still inside a walled garden, but I think that's a fundamental part of their offering.
Meanwhile, Fred Wilson
voices some concerns about Facebook's age distribution ...
Facebook is still predominantly a 15 to 26 year old service. The usage drops off dramatically once people get above 30 years old.
This will be an interesting data set to come back to in six months time, a year's time, and so on. We'll see if Facebook can move beyond the Techcrunch 50,000 into the mainstream among the older crowd. One thing they have going for them is it appears once you are on Facebook, you don't leave. So time will start to move those numbers up on its own.
I think Fred is asking the wrong questions
. Here's my comment on Fred's post
Sure, the older crowd isn't signing up in droves for Facebook et al, but is that any surprise? They're not natives, and the idea of online social networks is a foreign concept.
I see no reason to expect a massive behavioral shift towards the adoption and use of social networks by older audiences will occur. Their media consumption and usage patters (as well as their social interaction patterns) are well-established.
I don't think this is about Facebook moving "into the mainstream among the older crowd." Rather, I think the stats to watch and questions to ask are:
What's the sign-up rate of new/younger "natives?" In other words, is it still gaining traction amongst the key user groups?
What's the churn rate of as Facebook members as they get older? Does Facebook stays relevant to them over time or do they move on? In other words, is Facebook (and/or the other social networks) becoming an integral part of people's lives.
BTW, it is fascinating to watch Facebook explode onto the scene here in London and across Europe. And whilst it may be easy for certain US-centric marketers to ignore, the potential for international growth is quite obvious from here.
Fred, it isn't about "six months time, a year's time, and so on" ... Ok, well maybe it is about the "and so on" part ... Is it the VC in you that wants to see a six month/one year ROI from Facebook? It will take much longer. And what's with all the age
Right, wrong or somewhere in between, I think the conversation is very interesting.
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