Thursday, June 30, 2011

The 'social graph' lock-in is overvalued

We keep reading that the biggest asset Facebook has is their social graph, the network of friends and friends of friends that is close to impossible for other companies to replicate.

Facebook initially grew their network not just because people wanted to be friends with others on an online service, but because it provided a real value that people wanted to capture (according to my friend who was at school when facebook was getting big, that value was to get invited to all the parties, or spy on a girl).

If a service provides enough value for people, they will go through any amounts of pain to sign up to capture that. Think of dating sites like eharmony and match, they are extremely boring to sign up with forms that run for a mile, but loads of people still sign up.

I had attended the summit series conference few months ago, and they had their own special social network which you could sign up. The had very long forms, no facebook connect and even no email notifications. However, everybody still signed up and it was a very vibrant service during the conference... it was exclusive and it was useful.

Google plus, though a bit too early to say, is similar. I just signed up and found enough value because of the easier privacy controls (and also the photo syncing feature).. if this does well, my 'social graph' will take no time in moving to google from facebook.

At the end of the day, if a service has a real use for people, it will not be that difficult for them
 to get people on board. If the focus on a bottom-up approach on focusing on the value, people will sign up. In today's world where everything spreads so fast, the social graph will take no time to move with users.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with the thesis of the argument. However the problem is that Facebook also knows this and they will do everything in their power to make it harder for you to move. For example, Facebook will probably never allow users to carry out its "sharing history". Without the sharing history, I will find it hard to move to other networks. Other social services will have to exploit a niche and grow from there. For example, Google Plus is probably not betting on becoming the next Facebook. It will still achieve its purpose as #2 or #3, by capturing your social activity and sprucing up its own search/ads results.

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    1. I think there will be 'parallel networks' that will build along with facebook, but they will eventually start cutting into facebook's core. I am already seeing pinterest and tumblr doing that, there are communities of people directly connected making facebook less relevant as you use them more and more.

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