Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Social Network Application Police

Yesterday Myspace announced some changes to limit how "apps" could push virally across a users network. MySpace founder Tom made a rare post regarding these changes on his blog - here. This is similar to the changes Facebook implemented last year in an attempt to limit application developers from creating environments where users are basically creating spam on behalf of the developers/applications.

The new rules include:
  • No incentives may be given to a member for sending a message, bulletin, comment, or any other form of communication. This includes “points,” “bucks,” increased standing, or even features within the app.
  • It must be very clear to a member what they are sending, when they are sending communication. “Share with friends” is not sufficient messaging, the link must state “send comment,” “send bulletin,” and so on.
  • The “no popups” rule we have had in place since day one applies to messaging windows. This means no more popping up a messaging window the first time someone tries to use an app. No popping up messaging windows without a user clicking on a very clearly marked link.
Overall this is good news for users and levels the playing field a little for developers. But I know a few users of popular apps that won't like it too much. They may not be in the vocal majority but I've heard from many that are enjoying the popular "Own Your Friends" app that part of the fun of the game is amassing $$$ by getting friends to download the app (the more money you have the more friends you get to "own"). So I am left wondering if there is a place in between, can we build a social application rule-set that enables this kind of use case without "harming the network?

Its unclear how MySpace will administer these changes. Do they expect the network (users) to police the app's and flag them or will they review each app individually? I've posted this queery and will update as soon as I hear......

Friday, May 9, 2008

First Myspace, Then Facebook, Now Google Announces "Friend Connect"

One of the big bugaboos with social networking sites has been the difficulty of you getting your data out and into another site. That's all changing now that the big 3 (not Ford, Chevy and Chrysler) have announced in the last week new services to give users the ability to "control" their data.

TechCrunch says that Friend Connect will launch Monday "which will be a set of APIs for Open Social participants to pull profile information from social networks into third party websites". This comes on the heels of Myspace announcing on Thursday called Data Availability and Facebook announced Facebook Connect.

This has huge ramifications to both the marketplace and the developer community. As a developer of Open Social Applications (see mediapops on Myspace here) this solves a huge issue on how to extend the social application experience. We are working on a few new apps that will significantly benefit from this new API.

For users I am interested to see how much they take from the walled gardens and share data to other sites. While I think this is very different from Facebook's failed "Beacon" ad model, there will undoubtedly be folks trying to take advantage of users data.

Whats really cool is that this follows the normal model of the Social Web, nothing stays in one place, it is shared, annotated, modified and more by an ever growing network. Your social universe just expanded......

Building a Web Startup Company Today

I get the opportunity to work with and consult many companies about developing new business units and new companies in this web 2.0 space. Plus I have 3 of my own startups that I have launched or are in development currently to draw from. I find that so many of the questions and issues are common that it donned on me to do my own "list" of core components to creating a good web company today. I hope that you find some value in it and if you think I've missed anything, tell me, I really want to know!

1. Answer the question - What makes you social? If the answer is nothing, or if you are grasping at straws, that's OK. But know the answer, you can't fake it. Now why do I start here? Because we are in the midst of the Social Web transformation, its the train that's left the station, you need to know if you can ride it, or not. I think your business plan should devote several pages to this topic. If you don't have a social network account, you are in trouble because you have alot of catching up to do:)

If you are wondering what do I mean, try to look at your product or service as an organic thing and consider how it would look when touched, commented, shared or even modified by the market. Think about the possible touch-points and recognize that in the social web you are not fully in control. Stand back, does your product/service stand up in this medium? Is it better? If you answer yes, then you can exploit the social web to grow your company.

2. Rapid Deployment: you will never build the perfect mousetrap, I don't care if you are crazy smart and have all the money in the world in your hands, someone will beat you with a really good mousetrap that connects with the market and leaves you in their dust. Build, launch, tweak and repeat.

3. What's your PROMISE? At some core point your product/service/company makes a promise to its users. What's yours? In my opinion this is your only real currency with your customers. Recently in speaking with a good friend about her new venture where her primary value will be based upon her ability to build a strong connection with her customers. I pushed her to define and make her promise to her customers and put it right out there in front of them. You want to build a relationship with your user base? Make a promise, keep it, and watch that relationship flourish.

4. Fall in Love with Revenue: You can never have too many revenue sources. I am not a big believer in online advertising as the single means to a successful new web startup. I love it that Google has made it so easy to create revenue streams for a web co, but its simply not enough for 98% of the new companies. Now this exercise is really hard, all of us are trying to figure it out, but I propose that if you don't you are dead out of the gate.

5. Partner Well: Find strategic partnerships, figure out other companies trying to grow that you can help and in turn help yourself. But here's the catch, be very careful. A bad partnership can ruin you, be decisive about exactly what you want to accomplish and be willing to walk away.

6. Believe. Make sure you truly believe in what you are doing, it just isn't easy to win at this game, so if you don't believe in yourself/product/team it probably won't work anyway. Start and end the day by affirming your belief in your company, show your customers and investors and team mates that you are completely sure about your path. Being honest with yourself is probably the most important aspect to being an entrepreneur, don't BS yourself. If it isn't good enough for you to believe in, get it there or get out!