Facebook Is Just A Game: Confirmed!

Remember my January blog post where I came to the conclusion that Facebook was just a big game? It has been officially confirmed by a report from Flowing Data.

Facebook application breakdown game fun dating

According to Techcrunch, “About half of the 23, 160 applications on Facebook fall into the “Just for Fun” or “Gaming” categories. “Dating” and “Chat” are also high up the list.”

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.

Google Opening Its Social Graph?

TechCrunch reports on a secret meeting that happened at Google in the last few days. It looks like Google is about to “out open” Facebook by allowing developers to leverage Google’s social graph information.

The short version: Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.

On November 5 we’ll likely see third party iGoogle gadgets that leverage Orkut’s social graph information – the most basic implementation of what Google is planning. From there we may see a lot more – such as the ability to pull Orkut data outside of Google and into third party applications via the APIs. And Google is also considering allowing third parties to join the party at the other end of the platform – meaning other social networks (think Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, Digg and thousands of others) to give access to their user data to developers through those same APIs.

And that is a potentially killer strategy. Facebook has a platform to allow third parties to build applications on Facebook itself. But what Google may be planning is significantly more open – allowing third parties to both push and pull data, into and out of Google and non-Google applications.

That big rumor comes on the heels of another big announcement from Six Apart about open sourcing the Web’s social graph (a la OpenID). If you thought the Web was fragmented, wait until you can start building application on top of Google, Yahoo or MSN’s social graphs…

Reports from WidgetCon 2007

Yes, there is such a thing as a widget conference! I’m not there but some bloggers and one article from Online Media Daily have some insights about it:

As opt-in distribution networks popular among young consumers, widgets are on the rise, according to the analysts and agency types who gathered Wednesday in New York for the first WidgetCon. “This space is just showing some incredible month-over-month growth,” said Linda Boland Abraham, executive vice president, comScore. “If I were a widget maker, I’d be touting the young demographic that widgets are reaching.” In North America, more than 81 million consumers–or a full 40.3% of all online consumers–were exposed to Web widgets in April, according to a widget tracking service recently launched by comScore. For now, its Widget Metrix service only tracks widgets–mainly photo and video-streaming players–that can be embedded on Web pages like blogs and social networking pages, rather than desktop widgets. (Notably, it is not tracking YouTube’s video players.)

Joanna Pena-Bickley adds: “The widget is facilitating the evolution through giving us a mechanism for portable content, commerce, community and transactions in consumers lives.”

Daniela Capistrano says: “I do not believe that widgets will completely replace websites as some might believe, but I do believe they will change the way that all content is published, promoted, and shared.”

Jeremy Pepper thought that “NYC is about monetization. San Francisco is about community. Or, NY is about style and SF is about substance – either would work. And, at this conference, no one seems to care about the community. I came to this on my vacation, so just stayed for the two key panels – and walked away with the realization that while advertising and marketing (the majority of the people at the conference) are in deep in widgets, they are the last people that should be touching this space. Why? They don’t communicate – they push content, and don’t seem to care about community. ”

What it means: Widget(s) have enormous potential as a content/brand/business model distribution vehicle. When working on their design, make sure you think about the user value you’re offering. Think feature, not advertising, and let it go. If you build a large network of widget users but you’re not monetizing in the short term, don’t worry about it. It’s a great problem to have!

Widgets to Reach Younger Demographics

The Wall Street Journal has a story about the attractiveness of widgets as a vehicle to reach younger demographics. To understand better what’s a widget, see my “What’s a Blog Widget” post from last January.

Highlights:

A study of attitudes about online advertising shows that, not surprisingly, preteens and teenagers don’t like banner ads and other interruptions from marketers. But the study found that in the right circumstances kids enjoy playing with ad-related features on their personal pages in social-networking Web sites. (…)

In particular, the study’s findings may boost advertisers’ use of “widgets,” which are small, easily downloaded computer programs that allow Web pages to be more sophisticated and interactive, with, say, animated graphics, videos, photo sharing, music or live chats. Media companies are rapidly recognizing the value of offering widgets to young people to make their content available online. And advertisers are starting to sponsor widget-based content as a way of spreading their marketing message or luring people to their Web sites.

According to a survey mentioned in the article, pre-teens, teenagers and parents don’t want to see ads in their profiles. They see their profile page as their own and do not appreciate the intrusion. But they will put branded content if they receive an incentive (coupon, giveaway, useful feature). “The study found that 20% of teens added content from a marketer onto their personal Web sites in the last month.”

What it means: widgets are just one of the ways you can distribute your content. Make sure they’re part of your distribution strategy but build-in an incentive as it’s as easy to remove them as it is to install them.