Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Will Open Social Beat (or even match) the User Appeal of Facebook

To many folks open equals good and closed equals evil. So the news that Google will promote an open API for social media across the web, is quickly short-handed to "Google unleashes Facebook killer."

Not so fast, say I.

Don't lose sight of the strong user appeal of Facebook--a large part of which is predicated on the fact that it's a walled garden--simple, neat, cozy, consistent. And Facebook is where my friends are. Not just my geeky friends who fly mothlike to any new shiny thing that launches on the web, but my tech-laggard friends, too.

The open question on Open Social is what user experiences will developers create? Will they appeal to and resonate with a broad public?

Open Social may have more potential than Facebook. But whether that potential is realized will depend not on what developers and advertisers see in it, but what users see.

When social is everywhere, will social be special? Or just the price of admission.

Mickeleh's Take: Remember when Zune was touted as an iPod killer? Remember that iPhone, (closed, locked iPhone) is a runaway hit.

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Anonymous said...


I'm not seeing the connection between the lack of success of a crappy product (Zune), the success of great products (iPhone and ipod), and Google's open vs. Facebook's walled-garden approach.

The market has long accepted closed cell phones/networks, so it shouldn't be a surprise that a great cell phone (plus, plus, plus) be a success, even if it is closed.

I do find it interesting that the market is gravitating toward this walled-garden of Facebook. Didn't we all trounce AOL years ago for maintaining their walled garden well past the time that users wanted the openness of the web? What's different now? or is it just a cycle?

Michael Markman said...

I was, first of all, commenting on the glee that traditional and new media pundits take in turning everything into a horse-race. "Will Obama get tough enough to beat Hillary?" "Will Zune kill iPod?" "Will the Google alliance kill Facebook."

Can't the Google alliance succeed without killing Facebook?

The parallels and differences between classic AOL and Facebook--as well as the differences between then and now are worth exploring.

The products are different, the audiences are different, and the alternatives are different. It's Heraclitus deja vu all over again. We can't step into the same river again because we're different and the waters are different.

Short answer: it's cyclical. Facebook is a respite from the chaos of the Web. Prediction: the more it encompasses, the noisier it will seem, and the less appealing it will be.

If I have to wade through a swamp of advertising and promotion (even if it is well targeted to me) before I can get to my friends, I'll find other means.

Facebook is in more danger of collapsing under its own weight than it is of being killed by Open Social.