Thursday, June 7, 2007

Why Facebook is TIBCO. No. Seriously...

Good lord in heaven, what has become of me?

After years of avoiding social-networking-for-the-sake-of-social-masturbation sites such as Friendster and MySpace, I've bowed to peer pressure and set up a Facebook profile. I've done this, not out of social pressure - believe me - but out of curiosity for the future of aimless social connections.

Nevermind that Zuckerberg turned down a $1B buyout option from Yahoo last year - a move that belies his idealism and age, and I suspect he may come to regret even more than his employees in the next few years.

Nevermind that Zuckerberg recently declared that Facebook will become the "social networking operating system" - one of the benefits of being 900 years old is that I can remember when other companies (Netscape and Sun Microsystems, to name two) laid claims to being the something-or-other-operating-system...and we know how well those stories worked out.

Nevemind that Facebook's market share recently took a seriously large trend to the positive and seems to be ontrack to outpacing MySpace - the social networking masturbatory community is a fickle bunch: Friendster was deserted for MySpace, MySpace seems to be poised to be left in the dust for Facebook, something else will dethrone Facebook in a year or two. (On a side not, I believe this phenomenon has a lot to do with the "power of cool." It seems that on pure social networking sites, some sort of "social maximum" gets reached and people jump ship for the next available thing. I believe this "social maximum" is the gianormous internet equivalent of high school cliques: when too many people join the clique, it stops being cool and the members scatter looking for new cliques.)

So, why did I join then? Although Zuckerberg chooses to use the goofy "social networking operating system" phrase, what the company has done that is unique and interesting is to open up its web services APIs to the outside world - just at a time when MySpace has shut its APIs off. Pushing the concept even further, Facebook held a developer's conference here in San Francisco (where I am currently perched) to help spread the Gospel According to Mark to 800 developers. You can question if Facebook anticipated the reaction this would receive - but the timing could not have been better. Within days of the announcement, new Facebook widgets started showing up on other Web 2.0 sites.

Where will this lead? Will it keep Facebook shining in the limelight and push it to a bazillion dollar titan of the "death-to-conventional-thinking" industry and make Zuckerberg the Valleywag Wunderkind of the decade? Possibly - but the weight of history is against that happening.

However, what this will accomplish is to transform Facebook into (I can almost hear Mark's face crinkling at the sound of this) a social networking version of TIBCO, as its role as a service oriented architecture (SOA) expands, and its user interface portal to the stars takes on more of a lesser role. There is a real need for a "web services hub," of sorts, that provides a middleware infrastructure complete with defined API specifications with which all Web 2.0 sites and technologies need to comply. With Facebook assuming this role - which is probably what Zuckerberg means when he refers to Facebook as an operating system - it providing a much needed structure for the Yelps, OpenTables, and personal blogs out there.

...and, finally, social networking will have a hook to hang its fiduciary hat on that companies can use to monetize the 150Millon eyeballs currently engaged in looking at who Debbie was at the bar with on Monday night.


Mike Troiano said...

Great post. Plus Zuckerberg is a douchebag.

I do think they're on to something, though, and agree with you that the key is the degree of openness in their APIs. Speaking as someone who's about to dedicate actual engineering resources to the development of an app for this monstrosity, I really do buy in to the value of thier "Social Map" or whatever he called it in the keynote, and you can't argue with the rate other apps have expanded when serving this community

A final point - He couldn't have picked a better choke point to get the whole world of smart people into a single networking system. Kids will go to college and HAVE to participate in this beast, then be locked in for the rest of their lives.

Better lucky than good.


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