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Social Network Platforms: Less Interesting Every Day

I was talking to some friends the other day and I said, “You know, nobody talks about quitting their job to build Facebook applications like they used to. The clamp-down on virality has taken the fun out of it.”

What I meant by that was that they key to the Facebook platforms attractiveness was that people leveraging Facebook’s installed base and the viral capabilities of the original Facebook application platform could rapidly build multi-million user bases for their application. You can’t get that just building an average web site. That offered a tremendous value to people that had “ideas”.

Now that Facebook has clamped down and MySpace took its lessons from Facebook and never allowed applications to get significant traction, the value in application development for these platforms has declined significantly.

Several things I saw recently made me think even more about this:

  • I will be at Graphing Social Patterns East this week and I saw David Genzel’s bio where he describes himself thusly: “I make viral apps“. My understanding is that SocialMedia is kind of out of the application business. Regardless, I have to wonder what apps he has made viral lately without heavy marketing through the SocialMedia network. He got in at the right time and reaped the benefits. Now, no one would say he is not a smart guy, but I think his smart-ness in this particular instance was probably as much recognizing opportunity and seizing it as it was building a better widget (that’s a tongue in cheek comment if ever there was one).
  • Slide recently announced that they will not be launching any new applications, just enhancing old applications. A cynic’s view would be that they have recognized that launching new applications is simply too hard with the new restrictions and there is no need when they could simply add the new applications functionality to existing applications instantly provides the same target distribution and potential page views. I anticipate that they will actually take their huge successes like Funwall and turn them into “platforms on top of platforms”. Funwall will become the new Microsoft Office suite of the Internet, with everything but the kitchen sink available right from your wall!

The platforms on top of platforms direction is not in Facebooks best interest – they are best served by atomization of applications allowing microfunctionality additions – and increasing disinterest among small developers will probably force Facebook to reconsider some of the decisions they have made to throttle application growth.

One Response to “Social Network Platforms: Less Interesting Every Day”

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