Monday, November 01, 2010

Facebook Alternative? Dave McClure Is Full Of It

I am not thinking in terms of a Facebook alternative any more than I am thinking in terms of a Google alterntive, or an alternative to the high end giant Apple. These are stellar companies. Although I do think social is a pendulum swing. Just like social came after search, social is not the final word. There will be a paradigm shift of some sort in a few years. Facebook will also become a giant that no longer occupies the buzz center.

But that is not what Dave McClure is saying. He is talking in terms of an alternative to Facebook itself, another social network that is not Facebook, that is not Twitter. I don't agree, I think Facebook has got the social right, and it keeps innovating the way only having a founder CEO in the driver's seat ensures.
500 Hats: How to Take Down Facebook -- Hint: It Ain't Twitter. (aka: An Open Letter to the Next Big Social Network): Facebook has firmly fixed itself into the fundamental fabric of our friends & families

Facebook has started to get intimacy. Only a few days back it launched these special pages for your closest relationships. And the group page it launched weeks back can be great family get togethers online. First you get the like button, then you get a sophisticated like button. Facebook is getting there. It sure is working its tail off. The "smaller subset" Dave asks for is already there. Celebrities get Facebook pages. The like button is even simpler than composing a tweet. Facebook is not there yet fully in terms of social concentric circles, but it is getting there. But they already got your social graph. I am betting you are not going to start from scratch for another social network. Even if you will, maybe your friends will not come along. Why do you think the Internet Explorer still has such large share? People don't get off their butts. That's why.

My conclusion is Dave McClure is full of it, and he does not have much of an argument. The guy wrote a headline grabber, and forgot to put his pants on before getting on TV. Dave McClure's blog post is not even a criticism of Facebook - the guy obviously does not log into Facebook daily like you are supposed to, and Facebook obviously is not listed on his Google News page, or he does not read TechCrunch every day like you are supposed to, because he seems to have no clue about Facebook's newest features - let alone a serious threat to the site's very existence in the form of a Facebook killer idea. The post is a half hearted, outdated plea for some feature requests.

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6 comments:

Inder said...

Let me state Dave's argument differently. There are two DISTINCT types of communication modes on the internet - private communication (e.g., email, IM) or public communication networks (e.g., twitter, flickr, yelp).

Public communication networks specialize in letting exceptional content surface to the top quickly. They have some unique characteristics - one way relationships, relationships with people you don't know in real life, etc. Flickr, Twitter are good examples.

Private communication is an end in itself (email, IM). it also has some unique characteristics (most relationships are two-way, relationships mirror the offline world, etc.). Facebook started off wanting to be somewhat of a private communication channel. People wanted to interact with their friends via comments, wall, etc. but without the whole world watching.

It is hard to straddle both communication modes - these are distinct use cases.

There is one company that tried to build one UX for both and failed. That company is Google (which tried to integrate Buzz - a public communication channel, with Gmail - which is a private communication channel).

Facebook is trying to do the same, with more success. It is trying to straddle these two very different modes of communication - with the result that it isn't very good at either.

So far, it's kinda working. But Twitter is definitely better than Facebook at public communication. Might there be space for another website that eats users away from Facebook on the private communication end?

Or will Facebook be able to successfully straddle the center, and succeed where Google failed (with Buzz + Gmail)?

Dave's arguments are not without merit (although I also disagree with him).

More at: http://thehumanintheloop.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/sn-king-cn-aspirant/

Paramendra Bhagat said...

I don't believe there are two distinct types of communication. It is a blur by now for big parts.

Facebook could do both private and public on one platform. They should tackle email next. In a big way. I have blogged about it before.

Twitter is magic, but I never thought in terms of Twitter Vs Facebook.

Dave is not saying a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. He has no argument. His post reads like a features request to Facebook, several of which already are out as of a few weeks/days back. The guy needs to read his news.

Is that your blog? Will go check it out.

Inder said...

Here are the facts:

Facebook users want more privacy, but for whatever reason, Facebook wants more public defaults(I believe the reason is that they want to compete in the Twitter space).

The fact that there is this tension between Facebook and its users indicate that there are two ends of the spectrum - one that Facebook is trying to promote (Twitter-style) and the others that users are accustomed to (email/IM-style).

It is hard to straddle both ends of the spectrum (otherwise you would not be having this debate between Facebook and its users).

Here's another fact - there is one other company that tried to straddle both ends of the spectrum - Google (with Gmail and Buzz). It failed. This further indicates it is tricky to straddle both ends of the spectrum.

The requirements of a Twitter-compete and private communication mechanisms are very different - and it's hard to build a single user interface that works for both.

So far, Facebook has managed to build a product that somewhat satisfies both ends of the spectrum, but does neither very well. Dave's point is that they might be upstaged by someone who does intimate communication really well.

Whether or not you agree with him, he does have a point.

Paramendra Bhagat said...

So what Dave is saying is there is room for a company that will do intimate conversations well? Obviously he does not think email and IM are doing it. Because Facebook does do both of those: email and IM.

I am not saying Facebook is the best there can be. What I am saying is they have already captured the social graph. It would be hard for someone else to replicate that.

There is consumer and there is enterprise. Or maybe there isn't. Maybe enterprise should not feel so different and esoteric. There is work and there is life. Maybe you should not have one face for work and another for your life. You should be the same person in both settings.

And Facebook users should just realize they have access to their privacy settings.

Facebook's struggles with privacy and Google's struggles with Buzz are not similar. One was a slight misstep, another was a case of missing DNA.

I will give you and Dave this much. What Dave thinks is a company idea I think is a feature request to Facebook. But I am open to being proven wrong. And so I say, define intimate communication.

Inder said...

Here's what I'm saying: Facebook started off with very private defaults. Users switched from MySpace to Facebook because Facebook was perceived as "safer" and more private. I know I liked Facebook because I could opt out of search listing, could make it harder for people to find me, etc.

Facebook has moved away from those roots. Facebook USED to be good at intimate conversations. It no longer is. Dave is saying something similar (that Facebook is not good for intimate conversations anymore).

The open question is - does it open the door for another company to capture the intimate conversation space?

I disagree that this is just a feature request for Facebook. It is impossible for them to move back to more private defaults, since that would mean ceding the twitter-compete space.

Paramendra Bhagat said...

I am trying to find some common ground between you and me here. And this is what I find.

Social Is A Pendulum Swing http://goo.gl/fb/GiyO4

Also, wrote a reply post to one of your posts.

The Mobile Web, The Audio Medium, The Global South http://goo.gl/fb/oKlYU

We should talk some time. Are you on Skype? Or email me your number and a good time to talk.