Ryan has held a number of positions throughout the last 15 years, including running Listen.com, which acquired the company that became Rhapsody and then sold to Real Networks. He was an outspoken critic of Microsoft's Zune, its licensing arrangements with major labels and the impact they had on the rest of the music industry. "I understand that in a capitalist society the labels are just maximizing returns wherever they can," he wrote in 2006, "but this deal is the slippery slope to Hell for all other players in the category." Sounds like a fun guy to be in charge of games at Facebook.
What is the significance of gaming on Facebook? As ReadWriteWeb's Audrey Watters, a game player herself, says:
Gaming is one of the main reasons people keep that Facebook tab open all day. It's no coincidence that the rise in social games has paralleled Facebook's explosion -- and visa versa. The games really reinforce the social connections and in some cases, for people who "friend" in order to expand their gaming networks, games drive those social connections.
As the gaming companies themselves grow strong, like mega-time-eating-monster Zynga, Facebook will need a capable strategist to make sure that the balance of power between the platform and the participants remains favorable to all. Or at least to Facebook.
Given Ryan's past statements about entertainment ecosystem power dynamics, this is no doubt something he will be comfortable addressing. Given his willingness to spend four years as the CEO of a social network targeting 14-22 year olds with customizable 3D cartoon avatars as a form of self expression and a delivery mechanism for brand messaging, it's hard to guess what the net gain or loss for humanity will be of Ryan's new position.
Right: Some geeks like Meez. Photo by Nano Taboada.