I’ve been thinking a lot about the Facebook Platform (who hasn’t?), and about who is in the best position to take them on. The obvious answer is MySpace, still the giant of the social networking world with about 4 times as many users as Facebook. If MySpace created an API and opened up its user base to third party developers, there’s no doubt that developers would jump at the opportunity. But MySpace would likely require a significant redesign in order to be able implement something like the Facebook Platform as fluidly as Facebook has.
The next logical answer is Google or Yahoo!, both of whom have huge user bases, extensive developer APIs and the resources to pull off. But Google and Yahoo! lack the cohesion that Facebook has — there’s nothing really tying their users together. Then I had a crazy thought: What about Netvibes and Pageflakes?
That sounds absurd, I know, but bear with me. Both Netvibes and Pageflakes already act as platforms, with sophisticated developers APIs for creating widgets and programs to interact with their users. Both companies allow users to customize their pages, and inject personality into them. Both companies also already encourage users to share their creations (Universes and Pagecasts). Perhaps, the next step beyond sharing should be interaction.
What’s to stop either of those companies from adding social networking features? Or what’s to stop a third party developer from creating a widget that lets you link up with other users, or converse with one another via your Universe or Pagecast? It’s also a safe bet to assume that most of the companies that will be jumping on the Facebook Platform already, or will in the future, have a presence on Netvibes and Pageflakes. Pageflakes actually already encourages users to share Pagecasts as a group, allowing people to coalesce around a specific topic or idea. I think the next logical step is to add full on social networking features.
Netvibes has reported recently that it has 10 million users, and while Pageflakes is a little less forthcoming with their stats (I put in an email to Dan Cohen seeking that info, but had not heard back at press time), it’s probably safe to assume they’re a bit smaller. Either of these services is a far cry from the more than 20 million Facebook users (apparently growing by 100,000 per day and generating 40 billion page views per month), but my idea has less to do with user numbers and more to do with technology. Whereas Facebook is just launching their platform, Netvibes and Pageflakes each already have an evolved and popular platform ecosystem in place. What they lack is the social scene.
Is my idea totally off the wall or am I making some sense? Who do you think is in the best position to compete with Facebook?