Thursday, August 30, 2007

What it means to "friend"?

Steve Rubel raises some excellent questions about what it means to be a friend in the world of social networks in the post The Web Changes How We Define Friendship on his Micro Persuasion blog.

He missed two really important aspects of the "friend phenomenon" though. First, being somebody's friend on a social network is not the equivalent to saying that they are your terrestrial friend. The verbification of the word "friend" is something you would expect William Safire to cover in his On Language column as an interesting linguistic evolution. To "friend" someone on MySpace or Facebook is not the same as being their friend. Second, the issue of how people brag about how many friends they have should not be taken as a meaningful indicator of a broader social phenomenon. To hypothesize that having 700 friends in a social network makes a statement about the demise of meaningful social relations in our society, seems like a gross oversimplification. Rather, I see it as a function of the fact that the social networks don't offer a good way to segment relationships a.k.a. friends.

I want to bucket my online "friends" into three groups. The first group is my family and very close real friends with whom I share intimate information, photos, videos, messages and more. The second group is my extended social and pseudo personal network where I am willing to share lots of the stuff I care about, but perhaps not the fact that I'm about to have a colonoscopy. (That's a hypothetical!). Finally, the third group is everyone else. Former co-workers, industry acquaintances, and others that I find it interesting to have an informal relationship with. I may network with them and want to receive their updates and share information, humor and perspectives.

The problem with "friending" is that every relationship is indiscriminately dealt with through a model that was not designed for the many facets of our online lives. If you are in high school (MySpace) or college (Facebook) or if you want to have professional relations (LinkedIn), or you are looking to date (Match) these are some of the many social applications that have been designed to serve the specific needs and interests of their niche constituents. Yet, many of the applications that worked well for one constituency are not scaling or keeping up as new people enter the world of online social networks with their own needs and requirements.

Finallly, if you did not catch the NYT article omg my mom joined facebook describing a young woman's angst as her mom tries to friend her on Facebook, its a must read. Captures a really funny and poignant POV on the question of what it means to be "friends" online.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Facebook applications hit 3k

The number of applications on the Facebook platform just passed the 3,000 mark. And that's after being live just over two months. Pretty amazing.

I wonder what number of installed applications the average FB user has? And what is the average user count for all applications. One thing is certain, there have been 10s of millions of applications installed. That makes Facebook look a lot like an OS to me.

So when is Microsoft going to buy these guys?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

DropBox is live!

Plum's new cool app DropBox on Facebook is live. Its our second app. Shoebox was the first. We think of it like an open inbox. A place to share, discuss and discover with friends.

I want to improve the way we have discussions. DropBox is a start. Try it out.

Shoot me your thoughts. hanspeter-at-plum-dot-com

What's the revenue potential of Facebook applications?

There are 2,872 applications in the Facebook application directory today... and counting. I was speaking with my friend Scott Rafer yesterday at the DEMO alumni shtick down in Palo Alto. His new gig Lookery is trying to become the ad network for FB apps.

So I was wondering. What is the actual revenue potential if you could place an ad on every third party application page approximately two months after Facebook launches the application platform.

Say that the average CPM for a FB app is inching up to $0.30. Its a bit lower but we'll be generous and let Rafer convince us that he can get us there soon. How may page views per day do all the applications combined generate today? Lets say its 100million. Here's the math:
  • 10 million FB users use one or more third-party applications every day.
  • Every user has on average 10 page views per application session. (Only the canvas pages count since that's the only place you can add external ads.)
  • Math = 100 million page views per day.
  • I'm assuming that every page view has an ad opportunity AND that there is enough inventory to fill the space... these assumptions cannot be supported today, but we're talking "potential" here.
At $0.30 CPM that's $30,000 in revenue potential per day, $1m per month, $12m annualized.

What's going to change? Improved targeting and new ad formats will help boost CPMs. Usage will continue to rise so there is huge growth potential in page inventory. No doubt that there is growth potential.

I could be off by orders of magnitude regarding today's numbers and probably am. But even with order of magnitude corrections, we've got a ways to go before there is an eco-system that supports real businesses here.

What am I missing?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thoughts on violence

I was watching the Bourne Ultimatum the other day. The camera sure did move a lot. The previews were painful. One they're-out-to-get-us-and-I-the-lonely-hero-will-save-the-day-flick after another. If movie previews represent a snapshot of popular culture, Moore was right. We're inundated by fear based news and entertainment.

My inlaws are visiting. They are from Alabama. Don't live in this world with Facebook, Twitter and Plum. So we were having a conversation about violence in media. I think it started (branched off) with my musings about how much Facebook is changing social exchanges. I wasn't participating much in the violence discussion. Just listening and thinking that its basically harmless escapism. Realized I've adopted a defeatist POV really.

The point that resonated with me was hearing Harry (my father in law) describe a scene from the film about Daniel Pearl (the WSJ reporter killed by his abductors in Pakistan). The wife's grief was in your face. You saw the ramifications of her loss up close and personal. So he asked the question, what if every person killed in a video game or movie was accompanied by a snapshot into the grief and loss. What if "the bad guys" had brothers, sisters, wives and mothers too. Pretty good question.