Open Source Facebook Platform?

Techcrunch reports this morning that Facebook might be on the verge of “open sourcing” their platform, in response to the rise of OpenSocial, the other major social network platform standard.

Techcrunch adds:

Bebo already licenses the Facebook Platform, which allows third parties to make their Facebook applications work on Bebo, too. With the new announcement, social networks won’t need to go through the hassle of doing a deal with Facebook. They’ll simply map their existing APIs to Facebook Platform (which isn’t trivial) and go. Expect to see the four major technical pieces of Facebook Platform – FMBL (markup language), FQL (query language), FJS (Javascript library) and the Facebook API to be open sourced and made available to anyone.

What it means: the arrival of another open source social network platform standard means that, if you’re thinking of building social tools within your site, you should not re-invent the wheel. Look at OpenSocial, at Facebook or even at DiSo and embrace one of those.

Update: you can add me as a friend on Facebook here.

Update2 (05/28/2008): Facebook confirms the rumor.

Update 3 (06/03/2008): you can download the Facebook Open Platform here. (via Techcrunch)

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MySpace Announces Launch of Developer Platform

As read on TechCrunch this morning,

MySpace is finally getting ready to pull the trigger on its long-awaited platform for developers. Starting today, programmers can sign up to register for the MySpace API program, which will go live on February 5th. The APIs will allow developers to create social applications for MySpace much like they can already for Facebook. The platform will be compatible with Google’s OpenSocial platform, meaning that applications written for OpenSocial will work on MySpace with a few minimal tweaks.

MySpace Developer Platform Logo

More details will come out later about what exactly the APIs will allow developers to do, but at a high level they will allow for deeper integration into MySpace than can currently be done with Flash widgets. The APIs we believe will support Flash, iFrame elements and Javascript snippets, and give developers deeper access to MySpace member profile information and their connections. Developers also will be able to make money from advertising associated with their applications.

What it means: with all the talks about Facebook in the last 6 months, we tend to forget MySpace is still a major force in the social networking world. According to this recent eMarketer article, “The site received 72% of US visits to social networks in December 2007 alone” with Facebook a distant second at 16.03%. In terms of reach, MySpace had close to 72M unique visitors in October 2007 (source: eMarketer quoting ComScore) giving the site 40% reach of the US online market (Facebook is at 18%). In November, Compete data showed that only 20% of MySpace members were also on Facebook. So, if you’re interested in reaching these 72M users, get in line to get a developer access.

Local & Social Media Predictions for 2008

Yesterday, I wrote about what I thought were the most important news in 2007 in the local and social media space. Today, I’d like to propose my 2008 predictions, an always interesting exercise.

  1. The year of Identity. One of the big challenges of social media is having to sign-up and add your friends in a multitude of web sites. Expect 2008 to be the year where this problem becomes a major issue and gets potentially solved through identity interoperability initiatives like OpenID.
  2. Social is now everywhere and open. The last few months of 2007 have set the stage for a very social 2008. Any new major initiatives will include social elements by default and will use existing standards like OpenSocial, DiSo or Facebook.
  3. Fragmentation & personalization of media. Given the lower barrier to entry for new local/social projects, user and advertiser fragmentation will continue to accelerate in 2008. From a user point of view, this will lead to new personalization tools allowing consumers to create their own unique media view.
  4. The year of ad networks. As a corollary of point #3 above, given that user fragmentation will accelerate, an increasingly large number of ad networks will pop-up to aggregate consumers into a critical advertising mass. It’s all about advertiser defragmentation. Directory publishers will want to become ad networks themselves to push their ads outside of their core destination sites in order to increase their total reach.
  5. Content wants to be distributed. That’s the second corollary of point #3. Increasing user fragmentation requires content producers to atomize their content and push it in the fabric of the web. Think of your business in terms of content units or atoms (some inspiration came from Clay Shirky’s “fame vs. fortune” post from 2003).
  6. Social graph-based search. I am now a firm believer that social graph-based search will be the future of search (including local search) and we will see this concept gain some tractions in 2008. I think humans will always trust recommendations and advice from people in their “social network” (friends, family, colleagues, known experts, etc.) more than a machine. Online word-of-mouth is the biggest local search opportunity out there.
  7. More M&A activity in local. 2007 was quite active from a local M&A (Idearc buying Infospace’s directory business, Citysearch/InsiderPages, AT&T/Ingenio, Marchex/Voicestar, etc.) but I expect 2008 to be even more active given i) the need for directory publishers to execute on their strategies and ii) the need to aggregate traffic to increase advertiser ROI.
  8. Mobile: the year before the big bang. 2008 will be the year where a solid mobile development base (open devices, networks, platforms) is established leading to an explosion in 2009. Watch for the Google spectrum bid in January.

Local & Social Media Predictions for 2008

Yesterday, I wrote about what I thought were the most important news in 2007 in the local and social media space. Today, I’d like to propose my 2008 predictions, an always interesting exercise.

  1. The year of Identity. One of the big challenges of social media is having to sign-up and add your friends in a multitude of web sites. Expect 2008 to be the year where this problem becomes a major issue and gets potentially solved through identity interoperability initiatives like OpenID.
  2. Social is now everywhere and open. The last few months of 2007 have set the stage for a very social 2008. Any new major initiatives will include social elements by default and will use existing standards like OpenSocial, DiSo or Facebook.
  3. Fragmentation & personalization of media. Given the lower barrier to entry for new local/social projects, user and advertiser fragmentation will continue to accelerate in 2008. From a user point of view, this will lead to new personalization tools allowing consumers to create their own unique media view.
  4. The year of ad networks. As a corollary of point #3 above, given that user fragmentation will accelerate, an increasingly large number of ad networks will pop-up to aggregate consumers into a critical advertising mass. It’s all about advertiser defragmentation. Directory publishers will want to become ad networks themselves to push their ads outside of their core destination sites in order to increase their total reach.
  5. Content wants to be distributed. That’s the second corollary of point #3. Increasing user fragmentation requires content producers to atomize their content and push it in the fabric of the web. Think of your business in terms of content units or atoms (some inspiration came from Clay Shirky’s “fame vs. fortune” post from 2003).
  6. Social graph-based search. I am now a firm believer that social graph-based search will be the future of search (including local search) and we will see this concept gain some tractions in 2008. I think humans will always trust recommendations and advice from people in their “social network” (friends, family, colleagues, known experts, etc.) more than a machine. Online word-of-mouth is the biggest local search opportunity out there.
  7. More M&A activity in local. 2007 was quite active from a local M&A (Idearc buying Infospace’s directory business, Citysearch/InsiderPages, AT&T/Ingenio, Marchex/Voicestar, etc.) but I expect 2008 to be even more active given i) the need for directory publishers to execute on their strategies and ii) the need to aggregate traffic to increase advertiser ROI.
  8. Mobile: the year before the big bang. 2008 will be the year where a solid mobile development base (open devices, networks, platforms) is established leading to an explosion in 2009. Watch for the Google spectrum bid in January.

A Look Back at 2007

In business blogs everywhere, it’s that time of the year again, when we start looking back at the year that was and we start to forecast what 2008 will look like. In this post, I look back at 2007 and discuss the most significant local and social media news of the year.

1) Facebook

Clearly, Facebook was the number one news of 2007. By allowing anyone to open up an account in the Fall of 2006 (at about the same time they introduced their newsfeed function), Facebook paved the way for the arrival of tech enthusiasts and early adopters/influencers. Silicon Valley got very excited in the Spring and the launch of the F8 platform in May, allowing third-party developers to build applications, brought more excitement. I believe early adopters’ interest in Facebook has peaked (and has even started to decline) but the job is done. More than 55M active users of all ages access the site every month. The social network had a couple of setbacks around the end of the year with the beacon fracas and the launch of OpenSocial by Google but I believe it does not tarnish their luster. Facebook retaliated by opening up their infrastructure. The biggest benefit to the Web in general: Facebook is introducing people to the social web (micro-blogging, blogging, pictures uploading, “friending”), people who will eventually graduate to more complex social applications.

2) The opening up of the social web

Symbolized by the publication of the OpenSocial standard, the web is becoming more social and more open. Additionnally, the announcement by Six Apart that Movable Type, their leading blogging software, is going open source and the launch of the DiSo initiative to create open source implementations of distributed social networking are also important projects. Social will be part of the fabric of the web.

3) The launch of the iPhone and the unveiling of Android

Apple created quite a stir in June by launching the iPhone, a beautiful device that changes the way we see mobile web access. It’s not a perfect machine by any mean (still very closed) but it’s a game changer. The Android mobile platform by Google is also potentially very disruptive and paves the way to an interesting 2008 in that field. Local mobile search, the famous holy grail of local search, is on the verge of becoming reality.

4) The acquisition of Ingenio by AT&T/YellowPages.com

This purchase is a critical move for YellowPages.com and it clearly signals to the rest of the directory industry that call-tracking/pay-per-call will be the unifying standard in local product bundling, allowing a single sales force to sell multiple media formats. In the same vein, Marchex acquired Voicestar earlier this year.

5) The Radiohead “pay what you want” experiment

Even though it wasn’t as radical as industry watchers wanted it to be (Radiohead is still going to release a CD version of InRainbows), this trial by one of the most preeminent alt-rock group generated a lot of discussions in the blogosphere. Consumers were allowed to pay whatever they wanted to pay for the download including not paying at all. ComScore released some disheartening information about the percentage of people who paid for the album but that was quickly shot down by Radiohead’s management. In any case, the music industry needs more bleeding edge experiments like this one to find their future business model(s).

6) Reality check in the local search industry

The last two Kelsey conferences offered a sobering and realistic look at the realities of local search. Local is tough, hasn’t been cracked yet but offers tremendous opportunities. Stakeholders are realizing that partnerships will be needed to succeed. Two senior executives from the print directory industry talked openly about the opportunities and challenges of being a traditional media publisher and it was the first time that we heard that kind of discourse publicly. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all courting traditional local media companies that possess large sales forces to help them increase local revenues. I think we’re getting close to the “acceptance” stage of the Internet grief cycle and we should see a lot of action next year on the local search front.

I’d love to get your feedback on 2007 events. Anything important I forgot?

Facebook to OpenSocial: “Of Course You Realize This Means War”

According to the AllFacebook blog, Facebook just announced that they’re taking on the OpenSocial movement by allowing other players to use their platform architecture to build social media sites.

“Now we also want to share the benefits of our work by enabling other social sites to use our platform architecture as a model. In fact, we’ll even license the Facebook Platform methods and tags to other platforms. Of course, Facebook Platform will continue to evolve, but by enabling other social sites to use what we’ve learned, everyone wins — users get a better experience around the web, developers get access to new audiences, and social sites get more applications.

This is just another step toward the vision of easy, open sharing of information. We look forward to supporting other social sites as they release their own platforms, and look forward most of all to the added benefit for developers and users.

You can find more information here and additional technical details here.

What it means: With that move, Facebook hopes their architecture will become the defacto standard for social media. It’s Beta vs. VHS all over again! As OpenSocial is still in its infancy (even though many large players have embraced the standard), this could be a disruptive move by Facebook. Smaller social sites who had not yet joined the movement might reconsider. It will be interesting to see who will use Facebook’s architecture.

Update: it looks like Bebo will be using the Facebook architecture!

Member Overlap at Various Social Networks

With the rise of Facebook and the arrival of the OpenSocial ecosystem, web site operators are left wondering about prioritization. Which social network(s) should I embrace, where should I invest my time, what site(s) offer the biggest bang for the buck if I build an application?

The folks at Compete have analyzed member overlap at various social networks and explain their findings in this blog post. The graph below shows those interactions.

Compete Social Network Member Overlap

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 20% of MySpace members are also Facebook members.
  • 64% of Facebook members are also on MySpace.
  • Bebo, Hi5 and Friendster all share more than 49% of their members with MySpace.
  • LinkedIn shares 42% of its members with Facebook and 32% with MySpace.

What it means: From a sheer size point of view, Facebook and MySpace are interesting but operators should not underestimate the reach of Bebo, Friendster, Hi5 and LinkedIn. Some of these social networks are very strong in different parts of the globe and, depending where your user base is located, could make interesting platforms for your applications. In addition, LinkedIn and Viadeo reach a business-oriented user base.