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Kottke and McClure are both wrong: Facebook is really the next…

by Brandon on July 20th, 2007

Kottke said that Facebook is the new AOL.  It’s possible they could end up being like AOL (largely if they mess things up), but so far they haven’t really doing anything AOL-ish. 

McClure disagreed, and said that Facebook is actually the new Visual Basic.  This is a better comparison, as Facebook’s platform initiative does include a decent facility for “quick and dirty” app development.  But really, that’s not what makes Facebook so special.

So who else is Facebook like?  I see lots of viable analogs, but I’m going to focus on two of them.  The first one is Google.

Obvious, you might say.  But is it?  Think back to what Google did.  And I mean before Adsense/Adwords, Gmail, and so on.  They built search.

More than that, they built a search engine that contained the right content – in other words, all the pages you were looking for.  In the same way, Facebook “contains” all your friends.  As Google does to web pages, Facebook indexes your friends.  It creates your own personal social database.

What else is Facebook like?  Windows.  For one, it’s an open platform with good documentation and tools.  But the real kicker?  Everybody is already using it, and that actually drives more people to use it.  Just like application developers target Windows because it’s so pervasive – so too do web developers now target Facebook.  It has reached sufficient market saturation that people and companies will write for its platform because it really is the only platform that has reached that critical mass.  And just like on Windows, even a B-list application on the Facebook platform will attract more users than the very best application on any competing platform.

Also just like Windows, it is now trying to cyclically capitalize on both its existing mass of users, and its status as the preferred social web platform.  Each side feeds the other.  Some people might call it “lock in,” others… ”shrewdness.”  Either way, I find it impressive.  I wonder how long they can keep it up.

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