The other week, once again we saw “the biggest IPO” game played – the Facebook. It’s all about billions. Dollars, and approaching that number of users, making it the first social service on the web attracting a billion and beyond.
At the same time, now being on the stock market, there is an obvious risk that it will put its revenue stream before its most important stakeholder – the user. And with the revenue stream, the ads and the companies wanting to reach us. As said before, when it comes to the users, we are the goods to be sold. And Facebook also makes it very difficult for developers, making changes to their API and platform with short or no pre-announcing of updates. In the end, if they cross the line beyond acceptable “ad intrusion”, and we feel violated, used and abused as users, we will find another alternative. Of course, with the momentum and the masses hanging around at Facebook, it will still be rolling, where it will be hard to leave with our social graph residing there, and much of our social virtual life centered and concentrated with this, our biggest social service on the web to date.
I must state that I found the ad intrusion passed the limit for me, when I found a “sponsored social object” on top of my news feed. I was ok with having ads in the sidebar – clearly signalling that this is a “commercial message”. But when I found it on top of what used to be only authentic and unique content delivered and shared by my social graph lifted up by the Facebook algorithm, the fuse went for me.
Hands. Off. My. Social. News. Facebook!
There are also signs that the platform with its development rate comes with glitches and unintended happenings. Let me share a story here – when a credible source such as BBC had a campaign related to the Race Online 2012 Digital Participation national campaign, it was tagged as spam from Facebook.
A third irritation is that Facebook treats my social graph like their property, not my relations (yes, it is in the ToC, me knows). But! Last summer, when a Google Chrome developer made a plugin to harvest my contacts for easier migration of my FB contacts to Google Plus, that got punished by Facebook. My contacts are mine, Facebook! Change your ToC – and include dataportability whatever kind. If you are afraid of me, leaving, taking my data with me – there is something wrong with your business model. Building walls and stopping migration in that sense does not work for any kind of community in the long run – we will have the Virtual Mayflower all over again, finding another community of the Brave and Free.
There are two systems – open, or closed.
With your walls built, you will only make the user feel trapped in the end, and ultimately leave in time. And talking about business models – there is shortage of creativity only to think ”ads, ads, ads”. Run business model generation workshops at every corner of the company, regularly, and harvest the brilliant results, to be innovative when it comes to business models. Ads are so primitive, so ”reptile-brain” in its level. There must be better alternatives.
There are also other things coming with the size, where now the knowledge of running the Facebook features spreading community-deep-and-wide. Have you experienced the Event Invitation Storm to reach unbearable and unmanageable levels lately? I can report that the invitation system for the events is broken – socially, not technically. When being part of arranging events, I see very few respond at all. Simply put – there is too much, from all, to all else, all over the place. We need curation and filtering of some kind – or that part will sift to the degree of irrelevance and just die as a mechanism.
Ok – the focus can end this little walk through of negatives and be concluded to shift away from platform innovation, towards the ”quarterly report market valuation prison and hell”. And it will come with some negative consequences, one way or another, me guesstimates. The initial dip of the entry level of stock might just be the beginning. Sorry to spoil your honey-moon, Mark.
Facebook as it was – and beyond?
So what are the alternatives? What happens if Facebook makes one mistake too much, and a wave of mass defection occurs, in the manner what happened to MySpace?
There has been a try of the open source system Diaspora, and also the Google Plus now living a life of some kind – story still to unfold. Maybe G+ will catch up over time, and being a platform for Facebook defectors.
The problem is, that both Facebook and Google are proprietory in the end, and need a business model paying for their servers, bandwidth and innovation/development – where ads are the short-sighted solution. For the G+ platform, at least the ads are not in the social sphere – it is all elsewhere in the Googleverse, but not there.
Here is a suggestion.
Buddypress.com FTW! (?)
We all know WordPress, don’t we?
It is currently the number one CMS system of the world, and it is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of all new web spaces created are made with WP. They have a child project, called Buddypress – built on former WP MU – WordPress Multi-User. Buddypress with its plugin package comes with an instant-virtual-community-in-a-box, with every core functionality found with Facebook to be offered and customized with Buddypress – with the additional value of customizing it, with a cool developer community of plug-ins, as well.
The key here is that everything is open source and open for everyone to run on their own web servers, and the trademark is owned by a not-for-profit foundation. It is community-drive
n from start to end, and if the community is not held happy, it is not creating resilience and longevity. Crowd wisdom at its best.
WordPress, for the technically less savvy, also has a hosted solution, as known – WordPress.com. I suggest the following:
Do copy the whole strategy for the standalone web/blog-sphere hosted WP.com, and make an instant-community-counterpart Buddypress.com!
On top, and in the core – there could be a general community, open for everyone, the mainstream everything-social buddypress.com, where you can have a great, extended, lovable freemium. It will cover all the basic needs for those who want to have a general hangaround, and similar to another proprietory instant-community commercial-only platform, Ning, you could create sub-domains and host your own community – http://[your-community].buddypress.com. For free, of course.
Then, in all central aspects, inherit all the things WP.com drives revenue from – your own domains, CSS/design credits and so on – with additional possibilites to get community-specific add-ons for premium services. I do not go into detail here, there are many options.
I think it holds the option to actually be more resilient and strong, to act as a platform for a community who does exactly that – living in the spirit “community before cash”:
With the community, from the community, for the community, of the community, by the community.
Now, with an open question to Matt Mullenweg and the rest of the WordPress Community at large, with BuddyPress Community in specific – what do you think of this?