Social networking and media is a fascinating movement on the web that I’ve been messing around with since I received my first invitation to Friendster 4 years ago. Over the past couple of years, it’s been fun to watch MySpace and Facebook rise (I have profiles on both) and begin to battle it out as the juggernauts in this new space where most people now spend most of their time online.
But a few weeks ago, Facebook released an API that developers can use to integrate closely with their users’ personal homepages, opening up personal profile pages on their network to third party capabilities that flow seamlessly into their social experience. Now suddenly Facebook is no longer on a collision course with MySpace, it is on a collision course with all the personalized home page providers out there.
Years ago Yahoo became a force because they supplied the first great personalized “portal” page (MyYahoo), where you could get your weather, news, stocks, etc. all in one place, customized! Now everyone’s in that game, with iGoogle, Netvibes, Pageflakes, and hundreds of others. And because Facebook has changed course toward them, their great vulnerability has been revealed – they aren’t social.
Startup iLike, a social music discovery and sharing service, was one of the first to develop a plug-in to go on Facebookers’ personal pages using the new API. And they are blowing the roof off of their subscribers, tallying as many as 300,000 new registrants IN A DAY. This is the power of being social, and will lure other firms to start rolling out these features for Facebook in droves.
And after Facebook takes the non-social personalized homepages out behind the woodshed? They will beat up on Myspace because of they went first to the API approach – Myspace hasn’t figured it out yet.
Facebook is in an enviable spot, so many have speculated on an acquisition by some of the big players in tech and the internet (Yahoo! among them last fall), but more and more it looks like that won’t happen. I think Facebook wants to grab the #1 spot as the personal homepage for the average internet user, and they are willing to go public to do it. In this new social world, they could be the new Yahoo!.