The premiere mobile event, GigaOM’s Mobilize, is coming to San Francisco on September 26-27, to examine new opportunities presented by the convergence of cloud computing and the mobile Web.
Warm up your speculation engines. Last time Facebook hosted its f8 developer conference, it introduced the Like button that’s now pretty much ubiquitous across the web. At prior events, it brought out its Connect social syndication platform and intro’d the concept of the social graph. So will we see equally important new products and technologies on Sept 22? Inside Facebook speculates that Facebook might bring out an HTML5-based gaming platform, an iPad app, a music platform and, perhaps, a dedicated mobile photo app. Om originally broke the story on Facebook’s music dashboard strategy. Facebook could be a big player in digital music, though I doubt it will be a billion-dollar business for Facebook itself. I’m looking to see whether and how Facebook could use HTML5 to extend its platform services – including its Credits virtual currency – beyond the Facebook site. That could be big for games, social commerce and music developers, especially in mobile. Though at least one digital music player I talked to recently has no interest in 30% Credit fees. And I don’t think we’ll see the mythical Connect-based ad network at this event.
Social games and app developers got a bit of a shock when Facebook snuck out some Platform Policy changes. So what can an app developer do to get the most out of Facebook and insulate itself as much as possible from Facebook changes? Build its own site.
With Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola, there is a lot of conflicting talk about Google’s DNA, corporate culture, core competencies, etc. A Harvard Business Review blogger thinks Android is Google’s only non-consumer product, while Matt Rosoff at Business Insider says Google’s never been good at consumer products. Google’s advertising platform and services are extremely successful non-consumer products, and, while Rosoff’s right that consumers don’t pay for most of Google’s products, there’s no arguing that it has pleased them with search, maps, YouTube and Gmail. He’s correct that Google hasn’t done much advertising or merchandising to consumers. And Michael Mace knows that hardware product management is a very different discipline than software. Google’s not a portal. True, it’s a gateway, but it depends on usage frequency rather than duration, and doesn’t own much display ad inventory. Google is a platform company that creates APIs and services for its business ecosystem, and even delivers an advertising revenue stream they can share. As Om says, Google’s DNA makes it an engineering-driven company that designs algorithms and leverages its infrastructure.
Facebook quietly made some changes to its Platform Policies for third-party apps in late July, but it was so quiet that almost no one noticed till late last week. The two new rules: 1) apps can’t integrate or promote a competing social network, and 2) there are a few more restrictions on how virtual currency and promotions work. The first seems a little timid if not unexpected, and Facebook claims it didn’t kick off Belgian social network Netlog, that uses Connect sign-in, for it. The second is a bit confusing. Some think that sponsored promotions will be extremely limited. More likely, a game could still bring along an advertiser as long as the user got game goods or Facebook Credits as the payoff. Third party deals like those from TrialPay seem okay. One way or another, though, Facebook needs to be clear and vocal with its developers on platform changes – it can’t risk a Twitter reputation in the face of Google+.
Facebook’s, according to a survey of 100 developers posted on Hacker News. When asked about integration problems, Facebook mentions came up most, followed by Google and Twitter. Naturally, those three supply some of the most widely used APIs out there. Developers complained about bad documentation, bugs, OAuth and lack of example code. Two complained that Google+ hasn’t got a public API yet. At the same time, Twitter also received the most positive comments of any company mentioned, including kudos for its documentation. YourTrove Inc., the photo aggregation company that wrote the survey, admits it isn’t super-scientific or well-crafted, but it certainly exposes some things platform companies need to work on. And it didn’t even get into business issues.
Facebook and Google handle group management differently. Understanding their strategies will help competitors and partners gauge each one’s chances for success and identify opportunities for complementary products and services.
The rumors about Facebook working on “Project Spartan,” an HTML5-based mobile platform so that it could do an end-run around Apple’s App Store are plausible. The idea would be to run within the mobile Safari browser, an environment Apple has less control over. That way, Facebook could do apps promotion and distribution, and not have to share 30% of its Credits purchases cut with Apple. Facebook knows how to do social games distribution on the web even if, as Darrell Etherington writes, it doesn’t get mobile apps. All of the talk around Project Spartan today is about mobile phones. But there’s another iOS device out there that Facebook still doesn’t have an app for – the iPad. I wonder if that’s where a Project Spartan-like initiative might have its best success.
Ryan Kim looks at a talk by Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson that reminds developers that they have to plan on their platform provider doing something that works against their best interests. Wilson brought up a theme I’ve examined: startups can leverage a big company for distribution and audience acquisition, while building their own customer relationships. As Matthew Ingram notes, usually it’s Twitter that’s causing developer consternation, but after yesterday’s developer conference announcements, Apple is the one building “replacement apps.” Everybody’s got a favorite list of which apps Apple has killed. Ryan Kim offers some coping strategies. Apple seems more keen on sharing and syncing photos than building online collections of them, so I suspect Flickr, Instagram and Facebook are safe. And Apple’s deep Twitter integration might eliminate some of the usefulness of its own iOS-only iMessaging product.
The increasing dominance of Facebook, and the fading of other social networks like Myspace and Classmates.com, makes me wonder about social networks. Can there really only be one? Human beings naturally have a variety of networks based on different contexts like shared interests, work, school, geography and the like. It seems logical that there is room for specialized or niche social networks oriented around specific groups or activities.