A social gaming manifesto

Zynga is in turmoil. Since its IPO, Zynga stock has cratered, and it lost its COO. Its emerging mobile strategy has failed to impress. With increasing competition, it’s worth understanding whether Zynga’s troubles are unique to the company, or whether it is social gaming itself that is struggling.

Social platform players reveal diverging roles

Last week, Facebook and Twitter generated consternation within their respective ecosystems. These uproars illustrate key differences in the two dominant social media platforms. Facebook APIs channel data and technology services, but Twitter’s all about the data.

Today in Social

Today, Facebook joins Twitter in generating discussion, angry words, and hurt feelings around application-platform ecosystems. Mathew Ingram wonders,  is platform Darwinism just the way things work? The short answer is yes. But platform providers have to bring things to the party for developers – and ultimately for users, too – to ensure that the ecosystem thrives. Key ingredients include access to a big or desirable audience and/or data, technologies and support, distribution and a revenue stream to tap into. Facebook’s App Center addressed a bit of its discovery lacks, and though Zynga’s struggling a bit, it’s still generating growing revenues for Facebook (up 10 percent in Q2, even if it’s down as a percentage of Facebook’s total) and for itself. So far, Google+ doesn’t have much to offer to entice developers away from Facebook or Twitter.

Today in Social

If you think Twitter’s done a lot of damage to itself with the brouhaha over its temporary blocking of an Olympics critic, consider that the event – though widely tweeted – is far more disturbing to the digital and mainstream media than to the average Twitter consumer. (I won’t re-hash that NBC’s delayed coverage strategy, the source of the criticism, is working fine for NBC.) True, everybody comes out looking bad. The reporter seems like a jerk, NBC should have just embraced the buzz and Twitter comes across like a greedy censor. From a business perspective, Twitter continues to risk alienating critical pieces of its ecosystem. But that’s partly because it’s inventing a business model on the fly. It’s hard to stop athletes from tweeting sponsor messages – even if the IOC is miffed. And while a consistent, richer experience is a grand objective, which third-party developers might get left behind?

Potential Microsoft-Yammer impact

If Microsoft buys Yammer, it should focus on keeping Yammer a horizontal platform and learn how to adapt to freemium pricing rather than obsess over deeply integrating Yammer across its product lines. If it does, this could be a powerful combination in work media.

Browser wars, part IV

Yahoo has wisely abandoned any notions about being a technology platform provider. It is not using Axis as a package of APIs connected to Yahoo services upon which third-party developers build apps. Facebook is a another story entirely.

Today in Social

Publishers are blaming dramatic drop-offs in Facebook traffic to their auto-sharing Timeline news reader apps on a change by Facebook in how stories show up in news feeds. We’ve heard this one before – social games were probably the first victim of Facebook’s often-random changes in thinking on cross-promotions and ranking algorithms. Facebook more or less made it up to the social games, but then they share 30 percent of  digital goods sales with Facebook. Different publishers have different ad strategies for their apps, but Facebook is rarely involved. As my GigaOM colleague Mathew Ingram points out, even with the drop-off a lot of those apps have pretty big numbers. Regardless, surely Facebook apps must be a better traffic strategy than slideshows.

Potential Facebook-Instagram impact

Don’t be too quick to think that Facebook is abandoning its HTML5 mobile strategy in favor of apps. As a defensive move, acquiring Instagram would lock down Facebook’s strong position in photo-sharing, leaving little room for would-be competitors, but it gives Facebook few new weapons and no new revenue opportunities.