Why Facebook Will Flourish: No Food Fights or Vampires On LinkedIn

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Why Facebook Will Flourish: No Food Fights or Vampires On LinkedIn


I came across an interesting article on the NYTimes.com website today:

LinkedIn Plans To Open Up In A Closed Sort of Way

The article is an interview with Dan Nye, the CEO at LinkedIn.

A few points from the article:

1. LinkedIn will have to "approve" any company that wants to tap into its system.

2. Nye wants to keep the apps "all business".

3. There will no food fights on LinkedIn. So, unlike Facebook there will be no "frivolous" apps that allow users to throw food at each other, send each other virtual beers or some of the other fun and frolicing that occurs.

4. LinkedIn will take a revenue share from any apps that are built on it's platform.

As a Facebook user, I personally find most of the applications built by third-parties inane and time-wasting. I don't want to be a vampire or throw food at my Facebook friends. Perhaps you don't either. But, that's not the point. As a software entrepreneur, I think what makes a platform appealing is the ability to exercise some creativitiy -- within technical and infrastructure limits.

When I first started developing for Windows (and for that matter DOS), I knew there were restrictions. But, the restrictions were not that I needed to seek approval from Microsoft -- they were technical limitations and market limitations. If I wanted to develop a silly application that reversed the characters in a string and printed it out, so be it. If I wanted to make that application available to everyone. So be it.

Though I can understand the motivations for LinkedIn focusing on its users/customers in order to ensure they are getting maximum value, I'm not sure that trying to be highly selective about which apps are approved and available is the optimum strategy. One of the big advantages of building a platform and allowing third-parties to create value on top of it is that you are not limited by your own creativity. Others with interesting ideas can try them out. Some will succeed and some will fail.

Back to Facebook. Sure, lots of the apps are silly, but I get to decide which ones I use. Just like Windows (another platform), there are literally tens of thousands of apps that are out there. I use a small fraction, but in many cases, it’s a *different* small fraction than the ones you use. A good platform allows this "free market of ideas" and fosters creativity. You're going to get a lot of crap, but that's the price you pay for the good stuff.

So, although I agree that virtual food fights are a waste of time, sometimes you have to allow a bit of fun and frolic in order to flourish. And, there is such a thing as going too far in order to "protect" your customers. As a customer myself, I'd rather decide what I find useful or interesting. What do you think?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Oct 12, 2007


LinkedIn is a different type of company. They are going for a more professional level of user. You're right in that it may never reach the same level of popularity as a platform like Facebook, but it will be much more valuable to the niche market it's trying to serve. Would you want to provide a professional recommendation for someone who started a virtual food fight? Can you take a job posting seriously from someone who gets vampire points for every person who looks at their profile? Facebook and LinkedIn are targeting different markets, and I think the approach each is taking is the right one for their model.

posted on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 1:54 PM by Wayne

Dharmesh -

Creativity and open platforms are great... but Facebook is just plain childish. Maybe someday it will be great, but for now it is just not appropriate for business users. This is the blog article I wrote complaining that Facebook needs to graduate, get a real job and grow up.


posted on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 2:07 PM by Mike Volpe

One of the problems I see with the LinkedIn model is in defining their target customers. The idea of a strict "professional" market is flawed. Professionals have lives too and such a strict definition will underserve not only their customers, but the business will stay artificially small. For example, Professionals use their email for work and life, they use their cars for work and life, etc.

One potent tool that these social networks have yet to employ is pricing > 0. That may be the better way to serve everybody, while segmenting the market to provide a better experience for some.

posted on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 2:30 PM by Stacy

@Stacy: Many professionals do not want to mix their professional and personal lives when it comes to social networks. I don't want my hilariously inappropriate friends leaving public messages/pictures/videos in a place where the CEO of my company - or our clients' companies - can see them.

I have two separate Facebook accounts. A locked down one for friends and a public one for coworkers and business associates.

posted on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 2:47 PM by Wayne

@Wayne: Yep, I agree. The user can segment THEIR audiences themselves. It would be interesting to know what % of Facebook users have multiple accounts for this purpose or other ad-hoc purposes. If substantial user-created segmentation with new accounts, then the network with the most features wins. Also that sheds light upon unique customers vs total accounts.

However, I still think there is a role for price to play to offer a better experience to some targets, like Work, in the mist of one size fits alls.

posted on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 3:20 PM by Stacy

Fascinating. LinkedIN is clearly placing a big financial bet that they can increase their viability and value by catering to corporations need for social networking help. The major collaboration companies (IBM, MSFT and others) have been trying to bring LINKIN collaboration to the enterprise for years with lack luster results. I am a user and fan of LINKED in- free, easy, unobtrusive and a nice set of functionality for connecting me to others. But I dislike when people censor information- as a natural collaboration guy- I believe that information finds its own niche; and any way to artificially influence that is ultimately flawed. In the 21st century, mobs rule, WE THE PEOPLE have the power to determine what we want and don't want (and the technology supports that). If I was LINKED IN I would do both; a strict rules version and a open version and capture the entire market.

posted on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 6:12 PM by Dan Tyre

we're aiming to get a more useful app on facebook one day -- textworks would be helpful and fun. you can read more about it on our site! would you be interested in linking to one another?

posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2007 at 11:13 PM by lk

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