Facebook: Localization Coming Soon!

Robert Scoble, who’s currently attending the Davos conference, had the chance to connect with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. Among the things Zuckerberg shared:

  • Localization: “they are within weeks of shipping translated versions of Facebook.”
  • Application Platform: “they are working on a major overhaul of the application platform. Both to make apps less spammy and also to deliver much more functionality so more apps move beyond the viral, but pretty low feature, styles of apps.”
  • Data Portability: “they are still thinking about data portability and just how that will work to both protect users as well as to encourage new kinds of applications to be built.”
  • Scrabulous: “he talked to me about his love of Scrabulous and was hopeful that a good resolution will come. (…) He thinks there may be an acquisition or other good outcome to the dispute.”
  • The Beacon debacle: “he admitted to me that he had made mistakes in how they implemented Beacon and explained it. Watch for him to come back with a new Beacon and a much better explanation.”

What it means: being located outside the US, I definitely sense that localization is the biggest issue facing Facebook in terms of future growth. Europe has seen the emergence of strong regional social network players because of that situation, especially in non-English speaking countries. On Scrabulous, expect Facebook themselves to buy the application (and then pay Hasbro for the license) as it is one of the stickiest app out there.

Hasbro/Mattel to Scrabble Fans: No Love For You!

(full disclosure: I love Scrabble and I’m a Facebook Scrabulous junkie)

A few days ago, I read with horror that Hasbro/Mattel were threatening to shut down Scrabulous, my favorite Facebook application. There was a sense of deja vu as the article was written by Josh Quittner, former editor-in-chief of Business 2.0, the magazine we tried to save last summer with a Facebook group. Quittner, showing an enormous sense of humor, titled his article “Will someone please start a Facebook group to save Scrabulous?”

Yesterday morning, we learned that the two toy companies (who co-own the rights to the Scrabble game) have decided to escalate the legal procedures to Facebook directly and ask the social network site to shut down the very popular application (more than 600,000 active users per day, 26% of the application installed base).

Scrabble

Flickr picture by allyrose18

Following this news, fellow Toronto blogger Matthew Ingram wrote a mordant blog post called “Hasbro and Mattel: Dumb, dumb, dumb“. In it, Ingram writes “From a legal perspective, Hasbro and Mattel are no doubt totally within their rights to have the app removed, or to sue, or do whatever they wish to protect their trademark. But from a marketing perspective I think they are missing the point.”

He’s right. Between the cottage and our home, my family owns four versions of Scrabble (two Deluxe and two travel versions). We want to play the game offline and online but unfortunately Hasbro/Mattel haven’t built one for us within Facebook, where our network of friends currently “resides”. Scrabulous is the only solid alternative. It reminds me of the way the music industry threatens the largest consumers of music, the peer-to-peer network users, by calling them thieves and suing them (a study published late last year showed that P2P downloaders buy more music). Great way to treat your most important customer base…

From a marketing point of view, Hasbro/Mattel could have gone through different routes. Ingram suggested: “So why not just buy the app from the developers for a couple of hundred grand and call it a day?” Attaboy commenting on Ingram’s post proposed: ” they should be demanding that Scrabulous pay a license or share their revenues, not demanding that it be shut down.” I add that shutting down Scrabulous will only serve to anger your biggest Scrabble fans. The big lesson for corporations is: fill consumers’ needs or it will be filled by others, and you might end up looking like bad guys.