9/14/11 = The Day facebook MySpaced itself

October 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

One of the things I find most interesting about competitive strategy is that the patterns play themselves out over and over again.  Regardless of industry.  Regardless of who has made the same mistake before them.  There are tried and true strategies of how a dominant incumbent losses its position.  And if you know these patterns, you can see them before they happen.  And they almost always play out exactly as expected unless the incumbent recognizes it before it is too late or the switching costs become too high.

As I said in my “Explaining Twitter” post, social platforms reflect a continuum of tight to loose networks of people.  Each major platform has formed an ecosystem.  Twitter is an ecosystem of extreme loose networks.  LinkedIn is between tight and loose networks.  Facebook was designed to build tight networks (first starting with your college friends).  They each have gained popularity because I have different desires from each network, and these platforms solve those needs.

One of the key strategic mistakes that plays itself out over and over is when a dominant player, with a defined ecosystem, feels competitive pressure from its flank and defends itself by adopting features of that competitor.  The result is a dilution of its value proposition to its users.  Put in sports terms, it is now playing its opponents game rather than sticking to its game plan.

On September 14, 2011 facebook announced the subscription feature.  This feature is a mistake.  I sincerely hope facebook recognizes this soon and rips it out.  Here is why this feature is a mistake:

1.  It dilutes the tight network ecosystem I have come to expect from my of my facebook stream.

Trying this feature out, I have subscribed to interesting people, i.e. people who are leaders in industry, but not friends.  (Stop me if you see where this is going.)  My newsfeed is now dominated by posts (mostly news articles) by interesting people, whom are not my friends.  Sound like any cool service you know?

2.  Subscribers scare me.

I still remember when I got my first subscriber.  Some random dude I have never met in Eastern Europe.  I have no idea how he found me or why he subscribed to my FB stream.  But I didn’t like it.  Of course, he only sees my feeds that I make public.  But that filter is so hidden that it won’t be used, let alone understood.  So I am left with the feeling that I have stalkers watching my updates that are only meant for my friends, whom I have permissioned in.  On the flip side, Twitter is understood to be public, so my tweets are much less personal than my wall posts.  Said differently, that European dude has no business in my facebook.  If is creepy. And makes me more leery of sharing what I like to share with my friends.  His place is to follow me on Twitter, which are known to be public.

The Upshot

Sean Parker has famously said, the only reason facebook won is because MySpace screwed up.  And the only way facebook loses is if it screws up.  He is at Twitter now, so maybe he is happy to see this screw up.  But I am not.  I love facebook and want it to continue to win.  I am building my second social business that leverages facebook heavily.  So it is my sincere hope that facebook doesn’t get diluted and start to lose its subscribers.  But I see facebook executing the same pattern it used to beat MySpace…i.e. diluting the core of its user experience.  Zuck-dog, if you read this, please step in and rip out Subscriptions.

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§ One Response to 9/14/11 = The Day facebook MySpaced itself

  • Brian says:

    Awesome post. Hadn’t read the Sean Parker article. Very interesting regarding what you were talking about last week – network effects. Thanks Steven.

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