Will Google "Friendster" Facebook?

Anyone remember Friendster? It was an early entrant into the social networking scene. If they had done their work right they SHOULD have been a much bigger player than they are now.

Why aren’t they?

1. They didn’t take care of PR and didn’t take care of bloggers. Hmmm, Facebook is doing exactly the same thing. Several people at the dinner tonight noted that Facebook hasn’t responded to claims that Facebook’s employees are spying on data that the public doesn’t have access to. And that’s just one PR complaint.
2. They kicked people out that they didn’t like. Hmmm, Facebook is doing exactly the same thing.
3. They didn’t respond to new competitors who took away their coolness. Facebook? They are about to meet their biggest competition yet.

Last night I was at a dinner for Hugh Macleod and Oren Michaels. There was talk of an earthquake. No, not the 5.6 one centered near San Jose. The fact that Google is about to jump into the social networking world. TechCrunch caused the shockwave of the year with that one.

One name that’s on the Google announcement, Plaxo, tells me that Google is looking to build a “social graph” that’s open and doesn’t have walls keeping developers from playing. They are looking to “Friendster” Facebook.

Add into this last week’s little “Vic Gundotra” dinner and I’m already seeing a trend: Google is going full bore after influentials, bloggers, and other “new media” developers who need a social network as part of their efforts to remain competitive.

Think about it. Nearly every cool Web property lately has a social network. Upcoming.org, Flickr, Yelp, Channel 9, etc. All have their own proprietary social networks.

Look at MySpace and Facebook. Both don’t solve that problem.

Will Google? And, by helping out Web 2.0 developers and other influentials (Facebook calls them “whales”) will Google cut off Facebook’s PR air supply (which is proving quite lucrative)?

Those are things I’m going to focus on for the next few days.

Some things we still need answers on:

1. Is this new Google social network really fun to use like Facebook is?
2. Does it beat Facebook’s aesthetics?
3. Can the social graph be componetized so that I could add a social network to my blog, for instance?
4. Does the development platform beat Facebook’s? (Can I see which apps my friends have loaded, is the key question).
5. Does it build a really open social graph?
6. If Google does match Facebook’s utility (really easy: just clone the hell out of it but give the “whales” more than 5,000 friends. I’ve talked with many celebrities and businesses and they say 5,000 simply isn’t enough which is why many of them are forced to stay on MySpace) do they allow new kinds of social ads?

It’s going to be an interesting next month getting around to all these companies again and seeing what they plan to do.

Comments

  1. Good thinking here … yes, there will be many seismic aftershocks to their earthshaking movements in the social network space. Facebook still has some snobby Harvard country clubby brand blowback, i.e. we’re cool, you’re not, too exclusive I think. It’s not as welcoming and INclusive as an open social platform should be. The tension between “cool cliques” and “openness” in social networks is always a fine line. Even the openness of the platform from a dev point of view makes a fundemental statement in terms of brand warmth.

  2. Good thinking here … yes, there will be many seismic aftershocks to their earthshaking movements in the social network space. Facebook still has some snobby Harvard country clubby brand blowback, i.e. we’re cool, you’re not, too exclusive I think. It’s not as welcoming and INclusive as an open social platform should be. The tension between “cool cliques” and “openness” in social networks is always a fine line. Even the openness of the platform from a dev point of view makes a fundemental statement in terms of brand warmth.

  3. One word – Orkut.

    Everybody says “it’s big in Brazil”, but Google haven’t done enough with it to give it global appeal. Larry and Sergey have to be careful that any further work in the social netwroking field doesn’t end up like Orkut.

    If they knew what made Facebook successful, they would have done more with the site.

  4. One word – Orkut.

    Everybody says “it’s big in Brazil”, but Google haven’t done enough with it to give it global appeal. Larry and Sergey have to be careful that any further work in the social netwroking field doesn’t end up like Orkut.

    If they knew what made Facebook successful, they would have done more with the site.

  5. Scoble – Trick or Treat?

    Trick – well if google end up owning the social graph too then i will start to worry. It depends how open this is, but yet again it comes back to the question of open data. Forget the API’s – think of the data. Who own’s that is the interesting question.

    Treat – well, Google do so many things well and this could yet be something else that really changes the field. What we will see happening over the next couple of years is niche social nets with a common framework. Ive seen it coming for some time – perhaps google have too. Facebook seem to have saw it, but had the idea they could bring everyone TO their site – google seem to be doing the opposite.

    Spooky stuff!!

  6. Scoble – Trick or Treat?

    Trick – well if google end up owning the social graph too then i will start to worry. It depends how open this is, but yet again it comes back to the question of open data. Forget the API’s – think of the data. Who own’s that is the interesting question.

    Treat – well, Google do so many things well and this could yet be something else that really changes the field. What we will see happening over the next couple of years is niche social nets with a common framework. Ive seen it coming for some time – perhaps google have too. Facebook seem to have saw it, but had the idea they could bring everyone TO their site – google seem to be doing the opposite.

    Spooky stuff!!

  7. Just Twittered you back on this but I completely agree with your premise — the social graph (and Google’s the one company that I think can pull this off) will kill FB. One other note about why Friendster died — and this same thing is starting to happen on FB — SPAM. When I joined Friendster 2-3 years back, 90% of my friend requests were attractive 18 year old girls that wanted to “get to know me better.” Yeah right!

  8. Just Twittered you back on this but I completely agree with your premise — the social graph (and Google’s the one company that I think can pull this off) will kill FB. One other note about why Friendster died — and this same thing is starting to happen on FB — SPAM. When I joined Friendster 2-3 years back, 90% of my friend requests were attractive 18 year old girls that wanted to “get to know me better.” Yeah right!

  9. Halley: Facebook’s PR is WAY too controlling, too. Very secretive. Sorry Brandee, but that’s the truth. (She runs Facebook’s PR and gave me Marc Zuckerberg’s sister to interview, but she isn’t the one to really talk about some of the issues that end users — or even “whales” — care about).

  10. Halley: Facebook’s PR is WAY too controlling, too. Very secretive. Sorry Brandee, but that’s the truth. (She runs Facebook’s PR and gave me Marc Zuckerberg’s sister to interview, but she isn’t the one to really talk about some of the issues that end users — or even “whales” — care about).

  11. [...] Etwas mehr Informationen dazu auch bei: Google OpenSocial: The Third Place Details Revealed: Google OpenSocial To Launch Thursday Marc’s Voice » Blog Archive » OpenSocial details coming out Google and Friends to Gang Up on Facebook – New York Times _notizen aus der provinz: Google bringt neue API für Social Networking Sites Will Google “Friendster” Facebook? « Scobleizer [...]

  12. Google has a good infrastructure in place, so the real challenge for them is simply to build on a working community. If they can center a social network around some of their existing products (ie. Blogger), it just might work. Of course, that is if people are willing to use it.

    I have accounts on Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, but I really only use them as conduits for people to find me. I rarely log in unless I have some non-spam friend requests to process.

  13. Google has a good infrastructure in place, so the real challenge for them is simply to build on a working community. If they can center a social network around some of their existing products (ie. Blogger), it just might work. Of course, that is if people are willing to use it.

    I have accounts on Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, but I really only use them as conduits for people to find me. I rarely log in unless I have some non-spam friend requests to process.

  14. I have to disagree with Friendster re: bloggers. What killed Friendster in the domestic market was a plethora of site access issues over an extended period of time. Many folks actually enjoyed the service until the site kept going down…

    Note: Friendster, along with other social networking sites like Hi5.com, are actually doing quite well outside of the USA. The primary problem is that the marketing dollars are in the more developed countries…so it will be harder to monetize the traffic like Facebook & MySpace can.

  15. I have to disagree with Friendster re: bloggers. What killed Friendster in the domestic market was a plethora of site access issues over an extended period of time. Many folks actually enjoyed the service until the site kept going down…

    Note: Friendster, along with other social networking sites like Hi5.com, are actually doing quite well outside of the USA. The primary problem is that the marketing dollars are in the more developed countries…so it will be harder to monetize the traffic like Facebook & MySpace can.

  16. Damon: you might be right about the final nail, but I dropped Friendster far earlier than that. Just like I dropped LinkedIn a year before I got into Facebook although if LinkedIn goes away history will write that it was Facebook that killed it.

    I find that if companies stop caring about bloggers they lose momentum, which ultimately leads to death.

  17. Damon: you might be right about the final nail, but I dropped Friendster far earlier than that. Just like I dropped LinkedIn a year before I got into Facebook although if LinkedIn goes away history will write that it was Facebook that killed it.

    I find that if companies stop caring about bloggers they lose momentum, which ultimately leads to death.

  18. Hi Robert,

    I would add a few questions:

    7. How about privacy. Will I be able to control it and have easy ways to set privacy situational (Google knowing everything about me becomes a bit scary)
    8 Will Facebook, MySpace and other succesful sites join in or stay out?
    9 What is really the user benefit? I understand the developers issue that is being solved, I understand Google making ‘the one ring that binds them all’ (quote taken form Matthew Ingram), but how is integrating a whole bunch of web sites in a new layer really going to help me as a user? It sounds as if it is more sexy for the tech community than the Internet user himself?
    If interested I wrote more about that user perspective here:
    http://vanelsas.wordpress.com/2007/10/31/google-hits-back-hard-with-its-opensocial-plans-but-will-the-user-benefit/

  19. Hi Robert,

    I would add a few questions:

    7. How about privacy. Will I be able to control it and have easy ways to set privacy situational (Google knowing everything about me becomes a bit scary)
    8 Will Facebook, MySpace and other succesful sites join in or stay out?
    9 What is really the user benefit? I understand the developers issue that is being solved, I understand Google making ‘the one ring that binds them all’ (quote taken form Matthew Ingram), but how is integrating a whole bunch of web sites in a new layer really going to help me as a user? It sounds as if it is more sexy for the tech community than the Internet user himself?
    If interested I wrote more about that user perspective here:
    http://vanelsas.wordpress.com/2007/10/31/google-hits-back-hard-with-its-opensocial-plans-but-will-the-user-benefit/

  20. What’s this mean then for the little guy and future development of social media platforms, do you think? Will Google be the platform and I just build my own social page on top of that; similiar in concept to meetup.com? I could see it as high barrier to entry for other Facebooks of the future to compete especially with the momentum Google has now for mobile.

  21. What’s this mean then for the little guy and future development of social media platforms, do you think? Will Google be the platform and I just build my own social page on top of that; similiar in concept to meetup.com? I could see it as high barrier to entry for other Facebooks of the future to compete especially with the momentum Google has now for mobile.

  22. Well, I wrote about this. It stands to reason that Google will get the developer support, and then we can take our information across platforms if we use these applications. I for one love Google, and have lost my love for Facebook, although I still go there every day. I just find it a pain in the ass to be able only to access my Facebook friends through Facebook. And it’s lost the exclusive, clubby aspect now that it has-what-30m people on it.

  23. Well, I wrote about this. It stands to reason that Google will get the developer support, and then we can take our information across platforms if we use these applications. I for one love Google, and have lost my love for Facebook, although I still go there every day. I just find it a pain in the ass to be able only to access my Facebook friends through Facebook. And it’s lost the exclusive, clubby aspect now that it has-what-30m people on it.

  24. Google + Jaiku + OpenSocial = things are brewing in online land.

    Exciting times. Could swing either way, but finally having a single multi-micromedia-multi-user-chat-social-profile-app video blog thingy would be, um, awesome.

    Go Google.

  25. Google + Jaiku + OpenSocial = things are brewing in online land.

    Exciting times. Could swing either way, but finally having a single multi-micromedia-multi-user-chat-social-profile-app video blog thingy would be, um, awesome.

    Go Google.

  26. Friendster’s performance was horrible. Facebook is fast. That’s why I stopped using Friendster, and why I signed up and use (sometimes) Facebook.

    I think there was an article in Wired about Friendster’s downfall that I can’t find.

  27. Friendster’s performance was horrible. Facebook is fast. That’s why I stopped using Friendster, and why I signed up and use (sometimes) Facebook.

    I think there was an article in Wired about Friendster’s downfall that I can’t find.

  28. Remember Friendster? More like remember SixDegrees, they (by they I mean original owners sixdegrees, inc. and later YouthStream Media Networks) own US patent #6,175,831 or the “six degrees patent” that Tribe, Friendster, LinkedIn et al paid big money to use and brought on the likes of MySpace and FaceBook…

    They always seem to get overlooked in the 2.0 bubble of social networking

  29. Remember Friendster? More like remember SixDegrees, they (by they I mean original owners sixdegrees, inc. and later YouthStream Media Networks) own US patent #6,175,831 or the “six degrees patent” that Tribe, Friendster, LinkedIn et al paid big money to use and brought on the likes of MySpace and FaceBook…

    They always seem to get overlooked in the 2.0 bubble of social networking

  30. #10 Damon got it right — not being friendly to bloggers may have been what soured Robert on Friendster, but it was performance and overly strict rules that did it in with everyone else. Friendster didn’t provide for affinity groups, so users made their own. Rather than embracing the “fake” people, Friendster tried to stop what their users wanted to do with the service.

  31. #10 Damon got it right — not being friendly to bloggers may have been what soured Robert on Friendster, but it was performance and overly strict rules that did it in with everyone else. Friendster didn’t provide for affinity groups, so users made their own. Rather than embracing the “fake” people, Friendster tried to stop what their users wanted to do with the service.

  32. Aaron: and look at what Facebook is doing today: they have severe limitations on the usage of their social graph that other companies are about to exploit big time.

    When MySpace’s executives came up to me and talked about its new developer platform that’s coming soon the first thing they pointed out is that they want celebrities on its service and don’t limit you to 5,000 friends and that you can use fake names (both of which are necessities for corporate and celebrity uses).

    And Facebook isn’t all that fast. The reason that there’s a limit to 5,000 friends is because the service starts falling apart when you get more than 2,000 friends. It’ll be very interesting to see if Google does better.

    If it does there’s a very real chance that they’ll “friendster” Facebook. No matter what angle you look at it from. Most users are really going to like a much more open approach. They won’t know why, but if a social network shows up on every blog out there because it can be componetized and has an open API then that’s really going to disrupt Facebook’s ability to remain the “darling” of the industry.

  33. Aaron: and look at what Facebook is doing today: they have severe limitations on the usage of their social graph that other companies are about to exploit big time.

    When MySpace’s executives came up to me and talked about its new developer platform that’s coming soon the first thing they pointed out is that they want celebrities on its service and don’t limit you to 5,000 friends and that you can use fake names (both of which are necessities for corporate and celebrity uses).

    And Facebook isn’t all that fast. The reason that there’s a limit to 5,000 friends is because the service starts falling apart when you get more than 2,000 friends. It’ll be very interesting to see if Google does better.

    If it does there’s a very real chance that they’ll “friendster” Facebook. No matter what angle you look at it from. Most users are really going to like a much more open approach. They won’t know why, but if a social network shows up on every blog out there because it can be componetized and has an open API then that’s really going to disrupt Facebook’s ability to remain the “darling” of the industry.

  34. I don’t think of Open Social as a “new Google social network” so much as a shared API for app developers to build apps that work across many social networks (and for users to share a single core profile, including their connections, across them).

    Doesn’t really compare directly with using Facebook, because we’re now talking about working across a bunch of disparate networks that happen to share some data rather than a single (though pretty nice) walled garden.

  35. I don’t think of Open Social as a “new Google social network” so much as a shared API for app developers to build apps that work across many social networks (and for users to share a single core profile, including their connections, across them).

    Doesn’t really compare directly with using Facebook, because we’re now talking about working across a bunch of disparate networks that happen to share some data rather than a single (though pretty nice) walled garden.

  36. these social networking sites are of 0 of value. Look what happened with skype. They all depend on obnoxious advertising that is more offensive and intrusive than on t.v.,and that’s saying a lot. I have found no great social contact with people on these hi-tech networks. Just filth and bad grammar. It makes you think people are more rotten than ever. These should be called anti-social networking. People still people whether you meet them for lunch or on one of these stupid networks.

  37. these social networking sites are of 0 of value. Look what happened with skype. They all depend on obnoxious advertising that is more offensive and intrusive than on t.v.,and that’s saying a lot. I have found no great social contact with people on these hi-tech networks. Just filth and bad grammar. It makes you think people are more rotten than ever. These should be called anti-social networking. People still people whether you meet them for lunch or on one of these stupid networks.

  38. Heh.

    btw, there isn’t a 5000 friend limit per se. Just keep adding them. You/everyone might not be able to *see* the whole list, but my friend says it should work. That said, FB is working on changes to better support people with huge friend lists, so don’t ring the KO on them just yet.

  39. Heh.

    btw, there isn’t a 5000 friend limit per se. Just keep adding them. You/everyone might not be able to *see* the whole list, but my friend says it should work. That said, FB is working on changes to better support people with huge friend lists, so don’t ring the KO on them just yet.

  40. Hi Robert,

    I do think bloggers can be influential in the early stages of a company. But I also think there’s a ton of online companies out there that have done quite well w/o the overall support of bloggers and/or other influencers (many of the “1.0 companies, for example, didn’t have to worry about courting bloggers at all & probably don’t do so now).

    The bottom line is that there has to be mass appeal & working functionality for it to be embraced by the average person & that user attrition will happen with any service that has scaling issues that aren’t addressed quickly enough.

    Note: I personally don’t find the limitations on Facebook to be annoying. Not many people actually have 5000 “real” friends, after all. Most of the folks that I have on Facebook have between 100-300 friends…which is generally in the range of what most normal human beings could maintain as some sort of friendship. I think you’re in a fairly unique position because of your notoriety & willingness to be open with various social platforms.

  41. Hi Robert,

    I do think bloggers can be influential in the early stages of a company. But I also think there’s a ton of online companies out there that have done quite well w/o the overall support of bloggers and/or other influencers (many of the “1.0 companies, for example, didn’t have to worry about courting bloggers at all & probably don’t do so now).

    The bottom line is that there has to be mass appeal & working functionality for it to be embraced by the average person & that user attrition will happen with any service that has scaling issues that aren’t addressed quickly enough.

    Note: I personally don’t find the limitations on Facebook to be annoying. Not many people actually have 5000 “real” friends, after all. Most of the folks that I have on Facebook have between 100-300 friends…which is generally in the range of what most normal human beings could maintain as some sort of friendship. I think you’re in a fairly unique position because of your notoriety & willingness to be open with various social platforms.

  42. Damon: I disagree with you. A lot of the Web 1.0 companies got there by courting online influentials. OK, we didn’t call them bloggers before 1999, but they were still the first type of people.

    I was the first online site to talk about ICQ, for instance. Yossi Vardi says that the spread of ICQ by influentials was key in getting started. That was 1996.

    I remember how ICQ moved from 40 beta testers to 65,000 users in six weeks.

    Now the fast adoption track is owned by iLike, which got six million users on Facebook in a couple of weeks.

  43. Damon: I disagree with you. A lot of the Web 1.0 companies got there by courting online influentials. OK, we didn’t call them bloggers before 1999, but they were still the first type of people.

    I was the first online site to talk about ICQ, for instance. Yossi Vardi says that the spread of ICQ by influentials was key in getting started. That was 1996.

    I remember how ICQ moved from 40 beta testers to 65,000 users in six weeks.

    Now the fast adoption track is owned by iLike, which got six million users on Facebook in a couple of weeks.

  44. Microsoft spent a LOT of effort courting online influentials with a series of Compuserve and AOL forums, by the way. That effort still goes on today with the MVP program where millions of dollars are poured into courting online influentials.

  45. Microsoft spent a LOT of effort courting online influentials with a series of Compuserve and AOL forums, by the way. That effort still goes on today with the MVP program where millions of dollars are poured into courting online influentials.

  46. Maka-Maka ist googlisch, heisst OpenSocial

    Nun hat Maka-Maka also das Licht der Welt erblickt und wird heute Abend im Googleplex offiziell als Google OpenSocial vorgestellt.OpenSocial wird zu Beginn eine Kombination aus drei APIs sein. Diese A…

  47. Robert:

    We can disagree;-)

    I don’t doubt the importance of influencers in any marketplace. But to say that a company will be a success only because of influencers (bloggers, for example) is somewhat shortsighted & somewhat egotistical. There’s been numerous companies pumped up by bloggers that have fallen well short of the measuring stick because the products lacked mass appeal for the general marketplace & I think that is missed in your somewhat defensive comments supporting blogging. You need to have a working product first that fills a need for many people(ICQ, PayPal, eBay & other successes all filled needs for the online market).

    “Now the fast adoption track is owned by iLike, which got six million users on Facebook in a couple of weeks.”

    I would argue that this success is largely due in part to other people seeing what other people were adding via the status updates on Facebook & not key influencers pumping Ilike. The appeal of Ilike is that is a self-expression tool (music that I enjoy) & that’s why it works. The same goes for Flixster & many of the applications put out by Slide or RockYou.

    Note: I already mentioned that blogging can obviously help in the beginning stages of a company & getting early adoption by people. I think your comments are somewhat defensive & miss the general statements that I was making about what else is needed to make it *work* (a working product & the potential for mass appeal). Friendster didn’t fail because it wasn’t nice to bloggers…the system problems at Friendster is what brought about their fall from social networking grace (I know of very few people in the tech industry that would argue this point).

  48. Robert:

    We can disagree;-)

    I don’t doubt the importance of influencers in any marketplace. But to say that a company will be a success only because of influencers (bloggers, for example) is somewhat shortsighted & somewhat egotistical. There’s been numerous companies pumped up by bloggers that have fallen well short of the measuring stick because the products lacked mass appeal for the general marketplace & I think that is missed in your somewhat defensive comments supporting blogging. You need to have a working product first that fills a need for many people(ICQ, PayPal, eBay & other successes all filled needs for the online market).

    “Now the fast adoption track is owned by iLike, which got six million users on Facebook in a couple of weeks.”

    I would argue that this success is largely due in part to other people seeing what other people were adding via the status updates on Facebook & not key influencers pumping Ilike. The appeal of Ilike is that is a self-expression tool (music that I enjoy) & that’s why it works. The same goes for Flixster & many of the applications put out by Slide or RockYou.

    Note: I already mentioned that blogging can obviously help in the beginning stages of a company & getting early adoption by people. I think your comments are somewhat defensive & miss the general statements that I was making about what else is needed to make it *work* (a working product & the potential for mass appeal). Friendster didn’t fail because it wasn’t nice to bloggers…the system problems at Friendster is what brought about their fall from social networking grace (I know of very few people in the tech industry that would argue this point).