Thursday, August 2, 2012

Facebook Malaise


On June 13, 2012, at 4:30 p.m., I attended a meeting at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, California. In addition to myself, the meeting was attended by  [bunch of VPs] at Facebook.  The execs in the room made clear that the success of my product [which uses Facebook] would be an impediment to [Facebook's] ad revenue financial goals, and thus even offering me the chance to be acquired was a noble and kind move on their part [because FB has a competing internal product].. As someone that wants to build quality social software, software that doesn’t force users to re-create their friends list, or not use oAuth, etc., I have to endure huge platform risk.


So basically what happened is this: FB has an internal product which competes with this poor guy's app that uses Facebook Connect (an authorization mechanism through which you can accept FB users, and use their friendship data -with their permission-, so you dont have to maintain user related code or data)

Now, first they call this person in the meeting under false pretenses, asking for "demo" of his app and so forth.. But what they really wanted to do was to squeeze him out of the game. He was cornered because he is using a key component of his (now) competitor.

This is not a put-up-or-shut-up situation either. Facebook attracts developers by making its platform available to all which helps it to enlarge its user base, they turn out products that in turn brings more customers, then more developers, on and on.. But then, it tries get cute, and offer products that use its own platform. Then all of a sudden Facebook starts competing with its own solution providers.

I need to be blunt about the situation -- the events outlined above is monopolistic behaviour and should be investigated under Antitrust Law. The situation is no different than Microsoft favoring its own browser on its own OS, screwing Netscape in the process, or working shoddy deals with OEM's to push others out of the game. It is exactly - the - same - thing. Facebook needs to draw a clear line between its platform, and its products which might compete with other products developed by people outside their company.

Generally speaking: we see again that concentration is bad; as bad in hi-tech as it was in industrial (old) tech. And as we get deeper into Third Wave, this form of concentration will start feeling the heat, just like commercial software development has largely been replaced by open source now for infrastructural projects -- open source being a disconnected model and more in line with the zeitgeist. In the long run a similar faith awaits today's "platforms"; I am guessing solutions such as Diaspora who aim to let each node on the Net to be able to "serve" content, data, services, "friendship graph" on top of being passive users of these services, will carry the day.