It has been just under 2 months since Facebook launched their platform initiative, but this self-opening move has already had an extremely positive impact on the company. The changes are not limited to the company itself, however. The move has also disrupted the Internet industry as a whole and web 2.0 today looks very different than it did just 2 months ago. Let's take a look at what has changed since the launch of Facebook's Platform.
Facebook, the next big thing
They say "great entrepreneurs are great story-tellers." And that is exactly what flashed in the minds of journalists and developers who attended the launch announcement of the F8 Platform when 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg appeared on stage. His youth and excitement had many people saying that Zuckerberg was channeling a young Steve Jobs. Today, because of the reasons we've discussed in the Pivots of the Internet article and all the acquisition offers that Facebook has consistently denied, Facebook is widely expected to take on Google as "the next big thing." Though their numbers are still far below MySpace and they have not garnered the traditional media attention that MySpace has, their growth rate is impressive and their vision is very promising. The Facebook Platform reminds many of us of Windows; and people are calling it "the social operating system" on which you can develop your Internet apps.
Mark Zuckerberg's F8 introduction speech:
Now flashback 25 years, here is Steve Jobs:
Facebook VC Funds
Perhaps the biggest sign of the Facebook Platform's economic value is the interest of angel investors and venture capital funds in applications developed specifically for Facebook. The biggest announcement so far has come from Bay Partners; a Cupertino-based VC that firm announced that it will invest seed-stage money into promising Facebook app ideas via their new AppFactory program (see our previous coverage). That such a well established VC company will focus so exclusively on Facebook is likely very good news for Facebook.
Google has announced a similar program called Google Gadget Ventures for its own platform, iGoogle. But Google's platform hasn't been able to create the same buzz as the Facebook Platform, and while Google is using internal funds to attract external developers, Facebook funding has formed organically, separate from the company.
As a consequence of the two previous impacts, a new cottage industry has blossomed around the Facebook Platform. It has become the ubiquitous way of reaching mass users in a short period of time. The friction-free and viral nature of Facebook apps has caused some web innovators to shift their attention to developing for Facebook.
Many startups have changed their business plans to focus on utilizing the Facebook platform to spread their applications among the social network's 30 million users. Facebook app awareness has become a specialty that recruiters often look for in resumes. Some companies have even made small-scale acquisitions, apparently with the main purpose of acquiring talented Facebook developers (see SideStep's purchase of Extended Info).
Today an interesting competition has emerged between two already successful online slideshow companies; as Josh Catone stated in a previous article, the rivals have extended their fight to the Facebook Platform too and are battling for the broadest reach. These companies have made acquisitions in order to broaden their Facebook reach, see Slide's acquisition of Favorite Peeps, for instance.
With the introduction of the Facebook Platform, many Facebook/MySpace killer ideas have died. Hopes to take on social networking giants with more features have become nonsense; in other words, feature companies became obsolete. Even the strongest verticals, local social networks, have been affected by the move to open up Facebook to outside developers. As a result, many of these companies have been forced to change their strategy to stay afloat.
Perhaps the boldest strategy change so far has come from Ziki. The successful meta social networking site seems to have shifted its focus to people search, rather than simply social networking. Because the meta functionality was nothing but a feature on top of traditional social networking it was bound to be better as a Facebook app than as a full company. After all, in social networking, the most important parameter is critical mass (number of people that use your platform) and not the features you have. With the Facebook Platform, anyone can add meta features to Facebook, which is where the people already are.
Ziki's evolution from social network to people search.
In my opinion, these latest developments are enough to demonstrate why Facebook has already gained the reputation as "the next big thing" for many of us. It's very interesting that a private company, with revenues far less than the Google, can attract such mass attention from the media, users, VCs and an entire industry. I can only explain it with love: we all love Facebook's services, their culture and their decision to open their API. We hope that they can breathe fresh air into the industry. The only thing that bothers me is Facebook's so-called "dirty history" (the lawsuit against Zuckerberg from a Harvard classmate that contends he stole the original Facebooks source code). Hopefully, they'll resolve that problem and march on toward an IPO.