Anything to Keep That Traffic Coming In, Eh Zuckerberg?
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say today was May 25, 1999. Yesterday, the social-networking outfit introduced Facebook Platform, a new means for developers to build on top of Facebook’s APIs, at the Facebook f8 developer event in San Francisco. And looking over press coverage of the announcement today, you’d think it was the late ’90s and Six Degrees had made Flooz its official currency and offered free Kozmo.com deliveries to all its members.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls this latest version of the service a “social utility.” “Until now, social networks have been closed platforms,” Zuckerberg said in his event keynote. “Today, we’re going to end that. With this evolution of Facebook Platform, any developer worldwide can build full social applications on top of the social graph, inside of Facebook. The social graph is changing the way the world works. We are at a time in history when more information is available and people are more connected than they ever have been before, and the social graph is at the center of that.”
Social applications. The social graph. Sounds damn impressive, doesn’t it? But essentially, what Zuckerberg’s talking about is widgets. That’s right, Facebook has partnered with a bunch of other companies that are going to make widgets. Now, to be fair, that is interesting. As Gigaom’s Liz Gannes explains, Facebook seems to be attempting to become the online social operating system.
Which is all well and good, but will developers really want to use it? “What any entrepreneur contemplating building apps on Facebook’s new so-called ‘operating system’ needs to realize [is] that the evil genius of Zuckerberg’s Facebook-OS plan is that, well, it leaves him owning the operating system,” Owen Thomas writes in Business 2.0. “Is anyone here old enough to remember Microsoft in the 1990s? If you create a genuinely compelling service, why should you have to rent space on Facebook for it? That’s the question coders should ask themselves before they trip over themselves to start building apps for Zuckerberg’s social-network empire. As I’ve pointed out, distribution is a real challenge for Web start-ups–but I’m not sure that handing your users over to Facebook is such a smart shortcut.”