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The Facebook App Economy: Revival Time?

By - July 19, 2010

ZuckNBat.jpg

Who remembers the utter gold rush that was the Facebook Platform back in 2007, back when everyone, and honestly, really, EVERYONE, in the industry was busy answering the question “What’s Your Facebook Platform strategy?”

Well I sure do. At FM, we had meetings to address this question, meetings driven by me, by my staff and my senior executives, and of course, by our investors, who were asking the same question of every portfolio company they had. (And…do you believe…when Facebook launched Platform, it only had 20mm users?!)

Fortunately, our “Facebook strategy” was to not drop everything and start developing apps for the new environment. Despite the extraordinary hype, we took a measured approach, working with a few clear winners (like Graffiti), and waiting to see how it might all play out.

Fast forward a few years, and it’s clear that a very small set of important companies have managed to lever the original Facebook Platform into real value – Zynga, Slide come to mind – but I’m not certain the amount of energy put into the Platform ever netted out a gross ROI for all who threw themselves into the race.

Now, three months after all the Open Graph announcements at this year’s f8, I find myself wondering – where are all the web-based Facebook applications and services? It seems to me that Facebook has won, big time, in terms of getting folks to adopt “Likes.” But where are the developers and the awesome new ideas? Am I missing something? Is Facebook going to go toe to toe with Google, Apple, and Microsoft for the hearts and wallets of the developer?

From what I can tell, Facebook’s privacy tempest has delayed the formation of what I expected to be another goldrush. And no, I’m not talking about publishers who have incorporated “Likes”. I’m talking about entirely new or re-formulated web and mobile services that leverage unique data feeds from Facebook so as to bring entirely new value into the world. We’ve seen a fair amount of this from the Twitter ecosystem (though still and all, not as much as we might see soon). In the case of Facebook, however, I expected that by now we’d have seen a bunch of super cool services. But so far, none.

Again, am I missing something? What are you planning to do with the Facebook APIs? And what do you wish you could do, but so far, can’t, despite the announcements at f8 last April?

(Image above is from the Web 2 Summit, where Mark Zuckerberg will again grace the stage and converse with me).

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9 thoughts on “The Facebook App Economy: Revival Time?

  1. Trent Hamm says:

    The value of Open Graph is not very clear yet beyond simply being a bridge out of Facebook’s walled garden for data-rich external sites like IMDB. In other words, I think Open Graph is great for increasing the synergy between Facebook and already-existing sets of content or for simple self-promotion. Beyond that… if there are great ideas out there, they’re just not available yet.

    Not every cool idea results in an immediate sea change. Many, many great ideas that seem like they’ll change the world pass by quietly (like Google Wave) or take many years to really catch root (like, say, Bluetooth).

  2. Chih-Chao says:

    Check out http://gamersunite.coolchaser.com

    We provide facebook streams specially customized for gamers, amongst lots of other tools for gamers.

  3. I always feel slightly like the boy in the emperor’s new clothes when it comes to FB… I’m on it and I visit it once a week or so but the idea of me showing interest in or buying something whilst I’m there is zero.
    It’s interruption marketing at the worst time – like someone trying to interest you in double glazing whilst you’re relaxing over a beer with a friend in a bar.
    As for the people who spam me with updates of their farm/villa/hotel/pet shop/mental institution progress – nobody needs vacuous info.
    I started off writing as the boy… now I sound like Scrooge – but I just don’t get it!

  4. Brittle says:

    Online retailers have been succesfully adapting applications that help them sell on Facebook. I setup a shop on facebook using Sortprice.com’s store application and went from 200 active users per month to over 10,000 at one point. Adoption has been quite popular as some of the largest retailers are implementing this. SortPrice claims they have over 1000 stores built.
    http://www.sortprice.com/facebook_store

    I think it’s still in the infancy stage so only time will tell.

  5. lilywhite says:

    Hey John, I defy you to explain to your readers why SLIDE is an important company? You wrote it, just curious, because I don’t think many (if any) of your readers agree that Slide is important on any level. It seems to me that Slide changes their business model every 18 months, without any real foundation. If they went away tomorrow no one would notice, except you I guess?

  6. Maybe it’s just that the Twitter crowd (at least initially) was far more tech-savvy than Facebook’s – and thus willing to adopt services built around their new plaything.

  7. rick says:

    Seems like Facebook loses interest and move on to other things. Groups become Pages, Fans become likes… etc.

    Facebook basically killed off app development when they redesigned the profile and placed an emphasis on the news feed.

    But even some of the stuff they introed at F8 is already dead…. example: their disqus-like comment system doesn’t work right and isn’t documented well.

    They make Google Labs look brilliant.

  8. Nolan Love says:

    Speaking of leveraging unique data feeds from Facebook so as to bring entirely new value into the world… here’s a simple but compelling app that we’ve built to visualize all of your friends in one place: your own portrait.

    http://www.mesaic.com

    Enjoy!

  9. The same question applies to the Open Stream API. Apart from a few Twitter clients tacking on quite basic News Feed support, we’ve seen little in terms of provision for users to consume Facebook content without using Facebook.com. Why aren’t there a slew of Facebook iPad apps, given that there isn’t an official app yet?

    I can think off the top of my head of several features a third-party Facebook app could have; more detailed feed filtering, rich photo browsing, a rich calendar, etc. Ditto for messaging, though I don’t know if developers have access to the inbox in that way yet.