Posted on June 29, 2007
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |
at TechCrunch, the “hearts and minds of the people who count have abandoned MySpace for Facebook.” This astonishing revelation isn’t backed up with any facts or statistics, and interestingly comes less than a month after Duncan entitled “Rumors Of The Decline Of MySpace Are Exaggerated.” One can only assume that Duncan’s flip flopping and talk of “hearts and minds” indicate that he’s going to make a run for the presidency in 2008.
Perhaps he’s had a change of heart because MySpace may be looking to open up its platform to third-party developers, much like Facebook’s F8 platform, which has everybody in Silicon Valley drunk on kool aid. Many, like Duncan, now proclaim that MySpace is playing catch-up to Facebook. I believe the opposite is true. Consider the following:
- From a pure business metrics standpoint, MySpace is still the most dominant social network. HitWise reported that MySpace received 79.7% of all social networking website visits in April 2007. It still has at least double the number of registered users as Facebook, and based on the revenue numbers claimed for each of the services, MySpace generates in a single quarter about the same amount of revenues that Facebook is expected to generate in a year. Based on these statistics alone, making a compelling argument that MySpace is playing catch-up to Facebook is a difficult one.
- MySpace has always been open to the public. This obviously gave it a head start against Facebook, which was initially closed to all but college students. The fact that Facebook recently opened itself up to the public, ostensibly in an effort to grow the business once it had saturated its target market, represents a move by Facebook to catch up with MySpace - not the other way around.
- MySpace has always permitted users to embed “widgets” in their profiles. Until Facebook released its F8 platform, there was no ability for Facebook users to customize their profiles in this fashion. Again, Facebook has made a move that aligns its offering more closely with what MySpace had already been offering for some time - not the other way around. Clearly, Facebook’s F8 platform provides for much closer integration and has significant appeal to developers, however at the end of the day, the elegance of Facebook’s solution is irrelevant to the vast majority of users who don’t care how “widgets” or “applications” are provided to them. I believe that any move by MySpace to offer a platform similar to Facebook’s is a lot less important than many make it out to be, especially those who think it means that Facebook is winning the social networking war.
Given the above, I think it’s hard to argue that Facebook isn’t gunning for MySpace. Clearly, Facebook has been very successful in getting people to drink kool. The hype around Facebook has reached unprecedented levels but whether it can maintain this hype once the hoopla around its platform has died down remains to be seen.
Facebook should keep in mind that its original format led to its success. College students loved having an exclusive social network, free from the “clutter” often found on open social networks like MySpace. Now that it is open to the world and has allowed third-party developers to flood the service with applications, Facebook must try to balance its new strategy with the original strategy that made it so popular with its core audience. I have seen a number of blog posts and comments from early Facebook users lamenting the fact that Facebook is starting to look more and more like MySpace, thus losing some its original luster. While unlike Duncan Riley, I won’t go so far as to say that Facebook will lose the “hearts and minds of the people who count,” it’s clear that Facebook is taking some risks.
At the end of the day, I would also point out that it’s far too easy to fall in love with a service to the point that it blinds us from this fact: the average user looks to extract utilitarian value from a service. Both MySpace and Facebook facilitate the same sorts of online interactions. Even though there are some differences in how the two services are structured, they are more similar than they are dissimilar and I believe that mainstream Internet users care a lot less about the differences than technologists think they do. Perhaps the following video sums that up best.