Don Dodge opines 50M Facebook users don’t care about OpenSocial APIs and tries to convince us that Facebook is not dead. Granted that Microsoft just spent $250M on Facebook so it must hurt to see all the coverage going to Google rather than letting Microsoft bask in the afterglow of its miniscule stake in Facebook. But, it looks like he is slaying an imagined Dragon.
Here is the opening salvo:
There are 50 Million Facebook users who don’t know what OpenSocial APIs are…and don’t care. There are about 5,000 tech bloggers and developers who think it is a revolution that will “Checkmate” Facebook and leave them with no moves. TechMeme has over 100 stories saying that OpenSocial is awesome and Facebook is dead. MySpace joins Google on OpenSocial initiative. OK, surely that settles it, Facebook is dead. Nope, not in my opinion.
I am with him so far, the battle is far from over – its not even fully begun. But then Don articulates his rationale for why OpenSocial is irrelevant and why Facebook is not dead.
Facebook is about the user community. Facebook has always been focused on the user community and providing a great user experience. Does this user community know or care that the apps are built using FBML vs. XML? Nope. There are already at least 20 other social networks out there to choose from. Are they fleeing Facebook for these alternatives? Nope. It is all about the community, and where your friends are. Are there some users who would like to transfer their Facebook friends list to another social network? Probably some. Maybe even 5,000.
Well, its been less than a week so its premature to count the numbers. And the whole point of having a well-defined standard API is that users don’t have to care – the social networks can interoperate without having to understand APIs, import/export rules, etc. The sites can work with each other’s APIs to make the user experience more seamless as she switches between sites. I repeat – integration is at its best when its invisible to the end users. I thought we-need-to-integrate-everything-under-the-sun-into-Windows Microsoft would have grokked this.
Are Facebook users going to cancel their account? Nope, I doubt it. OK, so every tech blogger and social network developer is going to cancel their Facebook account and go to what? Orkut? Even if they did that would amount to about 5,000 users which is less than one/one hundredth of one percent of Facebook users. Or put another way 99.9999% of Facebook users will be happy to stay right where they are. And, Facebook probably adds 5,000 new users a day anyway. So the impact (revolution) will be over in one day. By next week this is old news.
I have yet to see anyone suggest that users will be en-masse canceling their Google accounts. Nobody is burning their Windows machines just because they bought an iPod or a Mac. The question is: Will OpenSocial make it more likely for a user to expend the effort in maintaining a non-Facebook account knowing that the information she enters can now (or will in future) be leveraged across a broad spectrum of sites.
Did Facebook users approve this? When I agreed to be a friend of Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Marc Andresseen, and others on Facebook, that was just Facebook. Did I agree to have my “friend relationship” exposed on Orkut or 20 other social networks? No. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to be friends with Robert, Mike, and Marc. But, I think most users would agree that they didn’t expect that their “relationship” would be exposed on other social networks. Or, that their name, picture, or any part of their personal profile would be exported to another social network. There may be a significant privacy issue here, or some questions about the use of PII (Personally Identifiable Information).
First off, this question is irrelevant Facebook is not part of OpenSocial. But let’s apply this question to non-FB sites like Orkut. The OpenSocial API does not force any site or user to share her information – it creates a standard if they choose to do so. Significant Privacy issues is what Telco’s bring up when they don’t want to allow third-party apps on their networks. FUD at its very best. And to top it all off, Don conveniently forgets that Facebook itself has “Import” addressbook functionality for sucking up my Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail addresses. What do they say about good for the Goose?
Will developers stop building Facebook apps? No, of course not. Facebook provides a pretty good API set and a pretty simple way to develop applications for Facebook. Does anyone really think that developers will abandon Facebook and instead only write to the OpenSocial API set? Seriously, what are these tech bloggers thinking? Developers are very skilled at building web apps that work on both Internet Explorer and FireFox, or Windows and Linux. It really isn’t a big deal to use Facebook’s FBML which is just XML with extensions.
“Does anyone really think that developers will abandon Facebook and instead only write to the OpenSocial API set? Seriously, what are these tech bloggers thinking?” I am not sure who suggested this. Seriously Don, what are you thinking? Did you just read the paranoia book by Andy Grove? Breathe, its going to be okay. No one is leaving anyone or killing any one. We are just letting sites exchange information using a standard API. May be, Mister Softee can learn. Could save you billions.
In fact, the very posts Don links to including this New York Times article say things like:
“The alliance is not likely to erode the popularity of Facebook or immediately alter the dynamics of the social networking market. But it could help revitalize the sites of some of its members, which have seen their social networks eclipsed by the popularity of MySpace and Facebook. Orkut, Google’s social network, for instance, is popular in Brazil and a few other countries, but not in the United States.”
But Don continues-
Not one single app has been written and not one single user has left Facebook, and already the tech cognoscenti is saying Facebook is dead. Get a grip guys.
Who? Where? Get a grip. Seriously.
P.S. Note to the humor challenged- Read this post with your sense of humor flag set to true. And Don – I am sending you a Facebook invite! Remember – this is about social networking. 😉
(Disclaimer: Please read disclaimer at the bottom of the page. Personal opinion etc.)
The New York Times today has a very interesting article on how technology innovation is being used to help the poor. This time, its social networking. Here is an excerpt:
Mr. Krishna found that many poor Indians in dead-end jobs remain in poverty not because there are no better jobs, but because they lack the connections to find them. Any Bangalorean could confirm the observation: the city teems with laborers desperate for work, and yet wealthy software tycoons complain endlessly about a shortage of maids and cooks.
Mr. Blagsvedt’s epiphany? “We need village LinkedIn!” he recalled saying, alluding to the professional networking site.
The last big innovation (or technology) that helped the poor in India is cellular phones. My parents (who live in New Delhi, India) could now call up an electrician or plumber directly on his cell without going through middlemen shop owners who earlier took most of the money simply for connecting us to the nomadic, ill connected electricians and plumbers. Not only did they get to keep all the income but the incomes went up as they could now be fully utilized as opposed to waiting for someone to call them in the shop where they sat idle earlier.
The last paragraph in the New York Times article is perhaps the most telling about why India (and many emerging countries) have a very bright future indeed:
Mr. Manhohar earns $100 a month. Jobs come irregularly, so he often spends up to three months of the year idle. Between jobs, he borrows from loan sharks to feed his wife and children. The usurers levy 10 percent monthly interest, enough to make a $100 loan a $314 debt in one year.
Mr. Manohar does not want his children to know his worries, or his life. He wants them to work in a nice office, so he spends nearly half his income on private schools for them. That is why he was at Babajob in a swiveling chair, staring at a computer and dreaming of more work.
The topic of Facebook vs. LinkedIn is like humidity in Miami – always present. And perhaps as hot too. Zoli brings up the topic again with his post titled Facebook Just Ain’t For Business, Get Over It (Business Needs Social Networking in Context) and points to this article in New York Times. Scoble has a nice piece on The you-don’t-need-more-friends lobby.
These are interesting discussions but if you are a beginner looking to understand how to deal manage your accounts on LinkedIn and/or Facebook, here are some questions to ask that can help you:
- Would you take a phone call from this person? If you receive an invite on LinkedIn or Facebook, ask yourself if you would take a call from this person on a busy Monday morning. If not, you may want to not have him be part of LinkedIn. Now, would you take a call on Friday evening from this person? If not, you should reject them on Facebook.
- Would you invite this business contact to a BBQ at your home? Ask this question when you get a Facebook from one of your LinkedIn contacts (or any business contacts). If the answer is no, don’t add them to your Facebook account – its way too personal. Even if you don’t say or do much on Facebook, this person can now see who you affiliate with – it can be embarrassing if your cousin from Vietnam posts his massage pictures, or worse – the ending – happy or otherwise.
- Do you really need to know her direct? A lot of contacts are made by people through one level of indirection. A friend of my friend finds my profile and sends me a request to connect. Unless I really want to get to know this person first hand, I gain little by accepting her request except to not look rude. In fact, when I add her to my contact list, I loose valuable information about how I know her – through my friend. The social graph captures useful information on who knows who through whom – let’s not loose that. Its like going to a party and being asked about the host “How do you know Larry?” – through Charles, of course.
- How do you balance the Links Budget? After a certain number of links, you may need to balance your “Links Budget”. This means you must try to delete a contact for every new contact you add. And remember, LinkedIn does not notify the deleted contact so its unlikely they will notice. Before you delete, you may want to download the contact information to your address book. (There is a download vCard button on each LinkedIn profile that you are connected to .)
- Can you really be friends with 437 people? For most of us, its hard to maintain 3-5 close friendships and 20-40 business contacts on a regular basis. Technology can bump that number up 5 to 10x but the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Also, when you have 437 contacts, none of your contacts feel special. The great Groucho Marx once quipped, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”
I will leave you with some quotes to ponder on when making these decisions.
“Those truly linked don’t need correspondence. When they meet again after many years apart, Their friendship is as true as ever.” – Deng Ming-Dao
“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” – Mark Twain
“Good friends, good blogs and millions in first round funding: this is the ideal life. ” – I would have said.
“The bird a nest
the spider a web
the man friendship.” – William Blake
Now, don’t be a stranger. Good friends leave comments!
My blog is now worth $5 trillion dollars. My best friend (now, BFF) agreed to buy a 0.0000000010% stake in anshublog.com for $50.
I will hold an IPO in December and the shares will be priced at $85 (of course, there will 58,823,529,411 shares outstanding).
You can obtain a prospectus by sending me $25 by PayPal. 😉
Learning from Facebook
Here are some practical ways of applying this method (there is a method to this madness) to great advantage in other spheres of life:
- Propose with a 1% 10-Caret Diamond Ring: This would be 0.1 Caret ring but would make your fiance feel like a (1o-Caret) Princess (cut).
- Tell your boss you have been offered a $300K job: You can ensure that you are not lying by asking your friend (who will then be your BFF) to pay you $10 for a 3-minute chore such as washing a dish. The trick is to annualize your salary.
- Tell friends your blog gets 7.27 million-views-per-year: Note that you must not state that you get 7.27 million views in one year. In stead, state that you got hit at this rate – the trick is to measure over a 10 second period where you get 2 or more hits.
Send me your ideas. I am sure there are millions of good ideas I can come up with (since I came up with 3 in last 13 minutes – I just need to extrapolate.)
What do you think?