How to Create a Successful Facebook Widget

February 15, 2008

When Facebook opened its platform to third-party developers in late May, mom-and-pop shop widget makers from California to Turkey cropped up everywhere to capitalize on Facebook’s fast-growing user base of 52 million people. Initially, it was easy to dismiss this widget economy as a microcosm for another Web bubble. But in reality, analysts say widget makers are not only creating innovative, user-friendly products, they’re also making a bunch of money—real money—from ads

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Five Favorite Facebook Widgets for Business Users

November 20, 2007

By C.G. Lynch,

Most Facebook developers will tell you that they create two different kinds of widgets. There are widgets of expression, geared towards harnessing the viral aspect of Facebook by getting users to share the app with other users.

These “expression” widgets often don’t have much of a goal beyond entertainment. One, for instance, lets users share movie ratings. Another helps users build “virtual scrapbooks.” The second kind is the utilitarian widget, which include clocks, weather reports and other helpful accessories.

Five Favorites

We scoured the widget libraries and came up with five of our favorites for business users based on their utility for getting the job done. Feel free to add suggestions in the comment space below for widgets that we might have missed.

1) Wikimono

Face it. E-mail has become so passi for document authoring that writing this sentence explaining that to you even seems a bit trite. The exhausting task of opening, renaming, saving and then sending a file (then repeat) leads to no version of the truth. So why not a wiki instead? The principle behind Wikimono is as simple as their website, which says, “We love Facebook, we love wikis.” You might love how discreetly you can bookmark the wikis on your Facebook profile and the decent set of editing tools that comes with it. And when we say decent, we don’t just mean bold, italics and underline. As you can see from this spec list, you can add video, math formulas, maps and all kinds of pictures. Use Wikimono to plan the agenda for your next meeting or take food requests for your holiday party.

2) MyLinkedIn Profile

Booooo-ring, yes, but necessary for the business user since Facebook still gears its site towards the consumer experience. Though you can list your professional experience under the built in “Information” app of Facebook, it still doesn’t match the depth and breadth of the curriculum vitae that you can build on your LinkedIn profile and then share with other professionals. Some Facebook Apps help you upload your LinkedIn profile to your actual Facebook profile, but this simple badge seems to do the trick just fine.

3) Sticky Notes

The first response you might get if you add this helpful widget will be “but what about the wall? Can’t you just use that?” They’re referring to the built-in Facebook app that allows friends (or people who have access to your Facebook page) to leave a messages for you publicly. The problem? Most walls tend to be a laundry list of social comments and inside jokes that eventually blur together, especially if you get a ton of them. If someone added “meet with team at 3 p.m.” to your own wall, for instance, there’s a good chance you’d miss it. Sticky Notes are big and come in a variety of colors (we prefer the standard yellow). Created by J-Squared Media, a small widget company that sprung up in large part because of Sticky Notes’ success, the app already has around 200,000 active users. You can leave notes for yourself on your own page, or you can leave them for colleagues (provided they have the app as well).

4) Blog RSS Feed Reader

Another way to keep project management away from your e-mail inbox (where it doesn’t belong) is to have internal blogs. If you’ve made that leap, why not feed them to your Facebook page? We picked this reader over several other RSS widgets on the Facebook App list because it can pull from enterprise-worthy blogging apps such as Movable Type. As updates to a project occur, the blog entries feed through the Reader and onto your Facebook page.

5) Marco Polo

If you work for one of the Big Corporations, odds are your workforce is spread across the country or maybe even the world. By utilizing this Facebook news feed with mapping technology, you can track the location of your friends and colleagues. Need to plan a business meeting? Just get a view of where everyone is currently located and find the most convenient location. If you want to let you’re friends know you’re on the road on business, check out Marco Polo‘s notification tool.


How Facebook Can Save Face

November 16, 2007


By Josh Quittner

It looks inevitable that Facebook will move away from its proprietary platform to the open platform of OpenSocial. Indeed, sources tell me that representatives from Facebook and Google (GOOG) met for the first time late yesterday afternoon. And already, Facebook investor and board member Jim Breyer is indicating that the social network would be willing to join the Everybody-but-Facebook Alliance.

Meanwhile, a favorite parlor game yesterday afternoon among pundits here in Techland was playing “What Should Facebook Do?” — though most of the people I spoke to were unwilling to go on the record. Virtually everyone’s answers however, boiled down to three options:

1. Do nothing. Facebook has a surprising amount of power in this relationship. It has 50 million members and continues to grow. As long as that’s the case, developers will continue to craft apps in FBML, its proprietary platform language.

2. Surrender, totally and at once. Converting Facebook’s platform to open HTML isn’t difficult from a programming standpoint or particularly time-consuming. Besides, developers will love it. Many have privately griped that Facebook’s platform is too gnarly and they look forward to simple HTML and Javascript. And no one I’ve spoken to can find any real problem with this shift from Facebook’s perspective — indeed, the move
should benefit Facebook since its members will be able to stay put, where FB can serve ads at them, while doing more outside the walls of FB.

3. Some combination of 1 & 2.

One person who was willing to go on the record was John Lilly, COO of the Mozilla Corporation, whom I had dinner with last night. Who better to talk about the virtues
of openness? Lilly, in fact, made me think that Option 3 was the smartest way to go. If he were running Facebook, he said, “I would not let Google take the ‘open’ mantle from the world.” He said that if Facebook decides that it needs to move from FBML to HTML — “and I’m not saying I’d necessarily do that if I were Facebook.” But if he did, “I’d cause Google some problems first.”

How? “If I were Facebook, I wouldn’t let Google say, ‘We are the Web.’ I’d call b.s. on them,” Lilly said. OpenSocial isn’t open! It’s a Google-run alliance; Google is calling the shots and is in charge of running the thing. But that’s kind of bogus since theoretically, it
could cause OpenSocial to move in ways that benefited it. True open standards initiatives tend to be run by open boards.

Of course, the down side to working with open-standards boards is they tend to move very slowly. Google is known for having little patience for that sort of thing.

One person I spoke to, who asked to remain anonymous because he is close to the current action, said challenging Google on whether OpenSocial was truly open was a red herring: “It’s a false challenge,” this person argued. “Even if Google has significant control over the API, the way it’s inevitably going to get controlled in reality is by the interoperable implementations that that people actually use. Interoperability itself will be the glue that keeps it from becoming proprietary. This is a dynamic that has worked very well for Internet standards over the years including HTML, HTTP, and TCP/IP itself, despite some very large and dominant vendors who would have preferred to take control of things like those. ” He also referenced this Anil Dash piece, which provides all the ammo you need to support the inevitability of Option 2.


On Facebook’s open to advertisers

November 15, 2007

Information Week

On Tuesday, Facebook announced Facebook Ads, an ad system for businesses to present Facebook users with targeted ads in a social context that encourages customers to share marketing messages with friends.

According to the company’s statement, Facebook Ads is

“an ad system for businesses to connect with users and target advertising to the exact audiences they want. And “through Facebook Ads, these users can now learn about new businesses, brands and products through the trusted referrals of their friends.”

“Facebook Ads represent a completely new way of advertising online,” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, told an audience of more than 250 marketing and advertising executives in New York. “For the last hundred years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be a part of the conversation. And they’re going to do this by using the social graph in the same way our users do.”

Facebook Ads consists of three parts: a way for businesses to build pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences; an ad system that facilitates the spread of brand messages virally through Facebook Social Ads™; and an interface to gather insights into people’s activity on Facebook that marketers care about.

Just like a Facebook user, businesses can start with a blank canvas and add all the information and content they want, including photos, videos, music and Facebook Platform applications. Outside developers have created a range of applications to enhance Facebook Pages, such as booking reservations or providing reviews of restaurant pages, buying tickets on a movie page or creating a custom t-shirt. Companies launching applications for Pages include Fandango, iLike, Musictoday LLC, OpenTable, SeamlessWeb, Zagat Survey LLC and Zazzle.

Twelve major advertisers plan to use the system initially, including Blockbuster, CBS, Chase, The Coca-Cola Co., Saturn, Sony Pictures, The New York Times Co., andVerizon.

“With Facebook Ads, our brands can become a part of the way users communicate and interact on Facebook,” said Carol Kruse, VP of global interactive marketing at Coca-Cola, in a statement. Coca-Cola plans to invite Facebook users to add an application to their Facebook pages called “Sprite Sips,” which will let them modify and interact with an animated Sprite Sips character. U.S. consumers will be able to access additional features of the advertising application by entering a PIN code found under the caps of 20-ounce Sprite bottles.

In addition, Facebook also announced today that 44 websites are using Facebook Beacon, a tool that allows users to share information
from other websites for distribution to their friends on Facebook. Beacon is a part of the Facebook Ads system.Web sites participating in Beacon can allow users to sell an item, buy an item or view video. When users who are logged into Facebook visit a site in the Ads network, they receive a prompt asking whether to they want to share those activities with their friends on Facebook. Friends may view those actions through the Facebook News Feed or Mini-Feed stories.

Online auctioneer eBay, for example, plans next year to use Beacon to let sellers include their eBay listings in their Facebook News Feeds. This will allow them to share information about the items they are selling with their network of friends.

On Nov. 7, Blockbuster launched MovieClique, an application that allows Facebook users to create lists of movies they want to see, or movies they’ve already seen, along with ratings and reviews, to share with their friends.

With Beacon, Web sites offer Facebook users the most relevant parts of their sites for distribution on the social site. When a logged in Facebook user visits a participating site, he or she is asked whether they want to share activities with friends.


Fandango and Zagat have created applications to buy tickets on a movie page and book reservations, respectively, while Blockbuster is letting fans compose lists and reviews of films.

IDC analyst Rachel Happe said Facebook Ads has the ability to do for brand advertising what Google’s AdWords keywords platform did for
direct marketing: making ads available to small and midsize businesses. This strategy helped Google, of Mountain View, Calif., grow to its
roughly $200 billion valuation.

But Facebook users could also decide that they really have no interest in associating themselves with products or companies. Moreover, the process is not without its drawbacks. Happe said she tried setting up a Facebook Page but can’t invite people to it without buying an ad.

“The only way around it was to first make myself a fan and then get people in my network to go to my profile and sign up for the Page from there … so it’s not really smooth yet but they are obviously trying to influence companies to use their advertising,” Happe told eWEEK Nov.

Still, Facebook Ads delivers us a new model. While many businesses buy their way into online advertising through spending, Facebook users may influence the reputations of the businesses by their ability to share information about them to friends.

“Advertising comes from people, who imbue a company with value by loyalty,” Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li told eWEEK Nov. 7. This means advertisers will want to redouble their efforts and have the most interesting advertisements so they can attract the most influential people with friends to endorse their brands. When Facebook makes it a two-way street those lists and review content will strengthen its partnerships and spread its brand even more, she said.

Of course, by creating a socially driven ad platform, Facebook is inviting, (or re-inviting if you prefer), another elephant into the room: privacy concern. While the Federal Trade Commission on Nov. 1 bemoaned the fact that advertisers cull too much data from people’s Web actions, Facebook promised to only use information that members share, and won’t give it to advertisers.

Forrester’s Li, who has one business and one personal Facebook account, said the privacy concerns over social networking sites are overblown because of the very nature of the site: people intend to get found by other people on such sites.

In addition, Facebook wouldn’t bite the people that feed the machine by giving out their information. Would it?

Facebook Ads may alienate some users, who will have to decide if the site is still the right place for them. But most of the fans seem fiercely loyal, so they are likely to take the new features in stride.

If the ad system doesn’t drive more folks to The Coca-Cola Company and other advertisers, they may well pull out. That would just put Facebook back to square one, which, at a $15 billion valuation and Microsoft as a prime supporter, is not such a bad place right now.

Just remember that no one expected Google to do as well as it has with its ad programs. If Facebook Ads takes off, the sky is the limit.


Sharing in the brand engagement

Tactically, it’s not an easy concept to explain. The first part involves user-initiated recommendations of a brand: When people visit a business’ Facebook page, they can choose to share their engagement with the brand (by becoming a “fan” or writing on the brand’s “wall”) with their peer network using a newsfeed or mini-feed. Facebook users can also share their interaction on a brand’s own website through a program coined Beacon. For example, users can share with their network when they post an item for sale on eBay, rent a movie on or rate a book on

The idea is that communication moves not from the brand to the consumer but from the consumer to his or her friends and family.

Then there’s the actual paid-advertising part: Facebook will permit advertisers to attach an ad message to those user notifications. To do so, marketers make a Facebook ad buy targeting users by any number of traits users volunteer on their profiles, such as age, political leanings or interests and activities. Facebook will then serve up those ads — fairly simple text-plus-graphic creative — either without the social element or, if a friend has sent notification of a brand engagement, within that.

“We are putting advertising back in the hands of people,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, VP-product marketing and operations, Facebook. He said it would create a system for user recommendations “so ads are less like ads and more like information and content.”

Facebook is offering the Beacon placement and branded pages for free. In return, the social-networking site gains access to potentially valuable targeting data about what kinds of brands users interact with.

A Trojan Horse

“It’s a brilliant Trojan Horse,” said Mark Kingdon, CEO of Organic. Overall, he called the platform “a natural evolution, both advertiser-friendly and user-friendly.”

Marketer reaction ranged from modest skepticism to major enthusiasm.

Jeffrey Glueck, chief marketing officer at Travelocity, which was a launch partner of Facebook’s Social Ads platform, said he was excited about the opportunities, but he admitted his brand has an inherent social aspect to it.

“Travel is very social, people like to talk about travel, invite their friends … and Facebook users like to share information with friends,” he said.

James Warner, exec VP-Avenue A/Razorfish East Region, said he liked the ability to linking a user action into an ad. “It’s unique,” he said, reservedly.

John Harrobin, senior VP-marketing and digital media at Verizon, was perhaps the most effusive, calling it exciting in the same way Google’s launch of AdWords was exciting. The difference, he said, is Facebook’s plan not only drives ads to those people who are in the bottom of the sales funnel but also the overall marketing effort.

“This lets us tap into the Facebook community’s potential to drive results,” he said.

But will consumers share?

Still, the service hinges on several things, not the least of which is users wanting to share their purchase behavior with friends. The targeting aspect assumes people honestly share their profile info. It also doesn’t take into account what is happening in the offline world.

Rob Norman, CEO of Group M Interaction, blogged about the announcement and said it was encouraging concept but also posed a “massive challenge in reputation management and just one more destination to deal with in terms of driving the traffic with messaging that shapes opinion.” He cautioned that clutter could become impenetrable, that people who share information about brands with friends might not actually like that being co-opted by advertisers; an easy slip up could, of course, broadcast something like a porn purchase to an entire social network.

While Facebook executives said that the ads would feel more like content because they would be yoked to a friend’s comments, some analysts said the approach could backfire.

“Just because you like Reebok doesn’t mean I am going to like Reebok,” said Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

Facebook has 60 advertisers already signed up as partners, and last night 100,000 new profiles were added to the site to promote products, bands and other interests. Condé Nast will ask visitors to its and sites if they would like to send information back to Facebook, and will later expand the option to its other sites.


One day after Facebook unveiled a number of ad innovations, media outlets are setting up shop on the site. CBS plans to promote the recent return of longstanding reality program “The Amazing Race.” CondeNet’s has a site offering a recipe for “beef stroganov” from the pages of Gourmet magazine as well as wallpaper downloads featuring cranberries or “salmon roe.” The New York Times Co. has also created a Facebook page that allows users access to features such as top news, most e-mailed articles, video and The New York Times
News Quiz. The newspaper company has also set up pages for The Boston Globe’s and its regional media group.

Coke has spot too

And at least one marketer was ready to jump in as soon as it was able. A new page featuring Coca-Cola went live at 4:21 a.m. today, according to a news feed at Coke’s new Facebook roost.

Facebook is in many ways going down a path used by MySpace, opening its collection of user-generated profile pages to marketers, who can now populate the social net with “personifications” of individual products and services. Facebook also unveiled a system that lets marketers spread promotional messages virally and what it called an “interface” that lets advertisers analyze relevant activity by Facebook users.

For its part, CBS is using the site to develop an online community of “Amazing Race” fans. The show’s page will include interactive content tied to the program, which had its season premiere Sunday — filling the slot that was to be occupied by “Viva Laughlin,” a hybrid musical comedy program that was widely drubbed by critics.

“Word-of-mouth has always been very important in entertainment marketing, but now because digital media has fractionalized the audience so much, we see this Facebook [move] as kind of tying it back together,” said George Schweitzer, president of CBS Marketing Group. He likened Facebook as a replacement for the office water cooler, where people often discuss what happened the previous night on their favorite programs. CBS may even use its “Amazing Race” site to seek out people who are predisposed to the show’s premise because they enjoy travel, hiking or are from the same hometown as a contestant, Mr. Schweitzer said.

Broader range of ads

Facebook’s move seems to be aimed at opening its users to a broader range of ads and promotional techniques. But it’s not as if the site hasn’t let marketers in before. In August 2006, for example, the company struck a partnership with J.P. Morgan Chase’s Chase credit-card division to be the site’s exclusive credit-card sponsor. Chase created a social network within Facebook of people interested in learning about or signing up for credit-card services.

Now, however, the site is open for many different kinds of ad placements. A new program called Facebook Beacon provides a way for users to choose to share their activities with their friends on the social network. People who surf, for example, might send the titles of the movies they add to their queue on Blockbuster’s website back to their friends on the Facebook website. In another example, Coca-Cola will let participating users create, configure and interact with an animated “Sprite Sips” character aligned with its Sprite soda.

Marketing observers have some concerns that Facebook users could be a little rattled when they find their activities on some applications, such as Facebook Beacon, communicated to a broad array of friends. But Sarah Chubb, president of CondeNet, the Condé Nast internet unit, said people are generally interested in talking about hobbies and passions, and so long as advertisers appeal to that dimension of consumer behavior, the ads and promotions could be more welcome.

That said, there has to be some sense of when to approach and when to hold back, she suggested. “I think Facebook is being very careful to limit the number of things you’ll see in any given day, a pretty conservative limit. We are being pretty conservative about the kinds of messaging that we’re doing. It’s not going to look like an ad. It’s going to look like an invitation to try it yourself.”

Internet Evolution

Three Flaws With Facebook’s Social Ads

  1. Where’s my money? Since the Paleolithic era, celebrities and regular cats alike have been endorsing products and getting compensated for it through money and lifetime supplies of triple-quilted paper towels. Fast-forward to Web 2.0: Everything gets interactive, everyone is a celebrity, and we find the best endorsements come from our friends. Facebook’s plan to mooch off our endorsements is all well and good — for Facebook — but where are my paper towels? Why should I scratch your back if you’re throwing itching powder on mine? As we get turned into marketing monkeys, we should get compensated somehow. And
    if there is little demand for this from our side, well, then we’re just falling into a trap of stupidity.
  2. If it’s optional, why should I? This system’s success relies on user compliance. For those of us who are neurotic and insecure (I am not referring to myself, per se… I have this friend, see?), a product endorsement with our picture on it could mean subjection to judgment by our peers. “Umm… Did you see that Nicole bought the ‘Shari Lewis Memoirs’ on What an incredible weirdo!” If I’m not making any cash money off of the deal, and I’m risking becoming socially shunned by the anti-Shari Lewis congregation, why would I comply?
  3. I don’t have to take this! I can go somewhere else!
    As Facebook becomes a storefront for marketing activity, will it lose its appeal and, in turn, its network of users? Maybe not. Facebook has promised (Scout’s honor) that this new system will not produce any more ads than usual. And all successful social networking sites will, at some point, have to sell advertisements or succumb to homelessness. So, the spiteful shift to a new network may be pointless.

Read more here:

The OpenSocial Business Model: Will the biggest social containers win?

November 2, 2007

By David Berlind

I asked two questions during the Q&A session in today’s announcement between Google and MySpace that MySpace would be embracing Google’s recently announced OpenSocial framework of APIs, with executives from both companies. The first question (which I’m really still waiting for an answer on) had to do with how two or more social networking sites will handle the thorny challenge of reconciling dissimilar identity management systems (when the integration involves the exchange of personal profile data). You can see in that post what some possible answers are, but what’s not clear is how, in the demonstration given, unique MySpace IDs are mapped to unique Flixster IDs (the demo involved the incorporation of Flixster social movie reviewing service directly onto MySpace profiles).

Another question I asked had to do with business models in an OpenSocial world. I probably didn’t phrase it during the press conference as well as I should have. But going back to the example of how OpenSocial results in the embedding of Flixster functionality into larger “social containers” like MySpace; It occurs to me that, to the extent the exporter of functionality (Flixster in the demo example) relies on advertising as a business model, the idea that a lot of people might begin to experience an exporter’s content through a container (where the container gets to serve the advertising instead of the exporter) could result in a cannibalization of the exporter’s traffic (and therefore, its ad revenues). Meanwhile, the container (MySpace in this case) benefits, doesn’t it? After all, using the demo as the example, MySpace gets to serve advertising around Flixster’s content. Today, lots of sites (eg: FaceBook) go out of their way to prevent other sites from using HTML’s frames to frame their content and serve their own ads against that content (FaceBook for example purposely “busts” HTML frames).

Therefore, could the OpenSocial network lead to a world where the biggest and mightiest “social containers” win? As you can hear in the full audio podcast we have of the press conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt answered that question as follows;

It depends on your view of how network effects happen and whether you think a single dominant player comes out in any of these spaces. The history of the Web says that that’s not the scenario that will happen. The history of the Web says that there is enormous diversity in what people are interested in and that people who are willing to take a bet on an open platform whether its a developer or leading site like MySpace get the benefit of a larger pie. It does not end up as a zero sum game. Your question can be rephrased in exactly the same question we asked 20 years ago and 10 years ago and history says that the Internet wins and that the principles of openness; that people can extend things; that in fact they end up winning because the pie gets so much larger in all scenarios.

Given the way FaceBook has come on so strong in the last few months, it would be hard to argue with the idea that no single dominant player will ever emerge so long as the platform is open. But what about a small handful of dominant players like Google, FaceBook, and MySpace. Yes, OpenSocial is also about unlocking whatever profile data you have in your MySpace vault and making it portable to other social networks.

But how often will people really switch after they’ve invested so much time in building their online personas in a MySpace, a FaceBook, or both? Maybe they’ll do it, but my sense is that they won’t do it often or lightly in which case only a few will get to rise to the top. Put another way, Flixster may indeed be a container as much as it is an exporter of data to other containers. But in which direction will most of the data flow? To or from Flixster? My sense is that people will lean in the direction of uber-containers like MySpace and FaceBook (FaceBook has not announced support for OpenSocial) to be their primary containers and specialty function sites like Flixster to serve up data into their containers.

I’m not saying that sites who primarily end up in the role of serving data to larger containers can’t win. But, if you ask me, the existence and adoption of OpenSocial will force many advertising-driven sites back to square one where they’ll have to think hard about how they’ll sustain themselves while also participating. One thing is for sure. Much the same way a day doesn’t go by when some company doesn’t carve out a niche in the FaceBook universe for itself (knowing full well that FaceBook is where the sunshine is right now), support of OpenSocial will be a checklist item for any site that’s in a position to serve data into the larger container sites. Those sites may not realize it right now. But when Google turns on its container (and you know it’s gotta have one coming or it wouldn’t be doing this), a lot of people will have their moment of clarity.


Widget Master

November 2, 2007

By Victoria Murphy Barret

RockYou is Silicon Valley’s latest Web sensation. It exists solely thanks to the recent rise in social networking sites. RockYou creates frivolous, mini Web applications that exist on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. RockYou’s popular Superwall, for instance, lets Facebook folks put graffiti–words, photos, videos–on their “walls,” which are public sites where members post messages. Another, called Zombies, encourages people to “bite” friends. Virtually, of course. No joke.

Since RockYou’s founding two years ago, 90 million social networkers have downloaded its applications. For this, RockYou is making more than $100,000 a month in revenues showing ads alongside its mini-applications for brands like AT&T and Sony, as well as by plugging other developers’ mini-apps (for a fee). The pitch to advertisers: We are where the kids hang out. Yet RockYou doesn’t know much else about its customers. Facebook doesn’t share data about members’ ages, locations, education or anything else it might know.

Jia Shen, the 27-year-old co-founder of RockYou, sat down with recently to talk about how to make money selling snack-size software and what Google’s new open platform means for Facebook and MySpace. How did RockYou begin?

Jia Shen: We started two years ago noticing that everyone on MySpace was trying to “bling out” their pages. But there was no easy way to do it. We decided to put together a slide show tool. It took one week to build. I worked while I was on vacation in Japan. In one month, we had 100,000 people using it. Then in three months there were one million.

Impressive growth. But were you making any money?

None. You can’t advertise on MySpace. Facebook changed that. So now we’re like any other Web site: We make money on page views. Sony Pictures wanted to promote the film Resident Evil and used our Zombies application for a sweepstakes event.

We also advertise other applications and take a cut. Yahoo! created an application that lets you post music videos on your Facebook profile page. Yahoo! had 8,000 downloads after one month, which is pretty slow. We started promoting the application in banners above our own applications. In a single day on our network of applications, Yahoo! got 120,000 downloads.

What is your initial reaction to Google’s new open platform for social networks?

We’ve been helping Google for a while on this. In theory, it should be very cool. We tested it out with an application called Emote (This is a collection of happy, sad, flirty smiley faces). Before all these networks required different code, and it took us three days to re-write the same application for Facebook to get it to work on Orkut. With the new standards, it took us just 30 minutes to make the same application work on Plaxo. The real test comes two months from now. How many companies will really give us real estate on their Web sites?

Will Google’s open platform give a boost to less popular social networks like Orkut, Friendster and the Hi5?

Sure, if it yields them more applications, it gives people more reasons to flock to their sites. Web traffic isn’t yet a zero-sum game

Is this bad news for Facebook? Will developers spend less time on Facebook apps?

People are making real money on Facebook. So there’s risk in going elsewhere. Am I really going to spend time going after Orkut’s Brazilian audience? I’m more likely to focus on the U.S. market. Facebook is still growing nicely.

Do you worry that the social networking sites, particularly Facebook, will start launching their own applications and compete with outside developers?

It is always a worry, but something that we’ve lived with since day one. MySpace eventually built a competing slideshow, but we already had big penetration, with a diverse set of widgets. Facebook does do little feature creeps here and there. But everything they’ve done so far has been non-competitive.

What will Microsoft get from its deal with Facebook? (Microsoft announced in October a $240 million investment for a 1.6% stake in Facebook, and is serving ads on the site.)

This isn’t traditional brand advertising. But my belief is that Microsoft didn’t want only access to the ad network. Microsoft wanted to make sure no one else got Facebook. (Google was reportedly bidding.)

What were you doing before RockYou?

I came to Silicon Valley in 2000 after majoring in computer science and electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins. The first start-up I landed at failed in three months, so did the second. I thought I was the kiss of death.

But I have a short attention span, so it was fine by me. This company is changing so much I may as well be working at a different place every three months.


Facebook Could Challenge Google And Become The Remote Control For The Web

November 2, 2007

by Stephen Wellman

On Aug 16, the blog Facebook Insider reported that TripAdvisor acquired Where I’ve Been, the top travel-related application on Facebook. While TripAdvisor later denied the rumor, the ensuing story exposed something: The exploding number of applications on Facebook. Thanks to its Facebook API program, Facebook is fast becoming the front page for much of the Web.

In July, I argued that Facebook posed a challenge to professional networking site LinkedIn. While I stand by that assessment, I think that in that post I didn’t go far enough. Given just how fast Facebook’s API program is growing, Facebook may present an even more interesting challenge to the Web. Facebook could shape up as a rival toGoogle, Yahoo, and even search itself.

By integrating more applications into its platform, Facebook is trying to transform itself from being just a social networking platform to becoming a full-interactive control panel or remote control for the Web. Unlike earlier attempts to do this — think of the portal model of Web 1.0 — Facebook has designed its API system so that users can access all the Web sites they want without ever leaving Facebook, or opening new Web pages. I suspect that Facebook will expand this functionality so that eventually the entire Web can be accessed through these widgets.

In short, Facebook wants to become the locus of control for much of the user’s Web activity, letting the user seamlessly share travel information, pull in news updates from blogs like TechCrunch, or send questions to the user’s social network with apps like MyQuestions.

If you will allow me to extend the remote control metaphor, Facebook users no longer have to go “out there” in the rest of the Web to get new sites, they can pull them through Facebook, either with invites from the app providers or, more effectively, through their social network itself. The cumulative impact of this could be huge. Just as the remote control gave birth to the couch potato (the ultimate passive TV viewer), so too could Facebook change the game for Web use.

If users no longer need to search to find new cool Web applications, they won’t need to use Google, Yahoo, or MSN as much. Instead, they can rely on Facebook for finding new applications. Now, I don’t think this would mean the end of search, but it could reduce its importance pretty significantly. If that happens, Google loses power and Facebook gains it.

What do you think? Do Facebook and its exploding universe of applications pose a real threat to Google and search in general?