Friday, April 11, 2008

If Facebook is a Platform, What is SuperWall?

Facebook is indisputably a platform since it provides a set of API's on which developers can deliver applications for a broad set of users. Facebook also offers a set of bundled applications, such as Pictures, Events, and Status, which are clobbering sites like Flickr, Evite, and Twitter, since these are inherently social applications - "Judy was just tagged in the photo Jim's Birthday Party!" gets a lot more attention than someone's Flickr feed.

We can learn from history here: Windows was one of the first platforms to both court developers and bundle applications, and Microsoft progressively added more and more applications, such as anti-virus, browser, email, fax/scan, movie editing, etc., and completely obliterated entire industries.

Companies like Slide and RockYou have a majority of their page impressions from delivering horizontal applications such as SuperWall, FunWall, and Top Friends. Facebook's upcoming profile redesign is going to include a Wall redesign which will likely include the popular features of SuperWall and FunWall, and the new Friend list feature will eventually make their way into Friend views.

So while you can get some short term play out of delivering a horizontal application for a platform, it is a fact of life that sooner rather than later you are going to get steamrollered, just like Norton and Netscape were on Windows. Focusing on the long tail of vertical applications, which on Facebook is apps like Compare People and Texas Hold'em Poker, is a more viable bet for longer term application growth and monetization.

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