I have a mate who wants to develop a new social network because he doesn’t like the way that Facebook mixes up his personal and business contacts.
Today, I read Scott Karp’s piece on Publishing 2.0 where he uses capital letters to emphasis that Facebook is NOT for business.
Let’s be clear of one thing – there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not ideal about Facebook. It was built for college kids and is now trying to position itself as the de facto standard social platform. To do so, it’s prioritised its “platform” at the expense of building out any new functionality. But it would be naive to think that down the track, Facebook isn’t going to fix a bunch of things that irk users at the moment. Like having different personas, different sets of friends, etc. I’d suggest once they’re happy with their “platform” they’ll look to make their core functionality far more flexible. Let’s not forget the first group that Facebook was opened up to beyond its core was corporates. Being a business tool is clearly an objective and this Facebook is team is very, very smart. It’s only a matter of time before they do things that make the service work better for different circles of acquaintances. [Note, the news of AJAX support for its developer platform – these guys aren’t standing still)
Even without any of that, I’ve got oodles more out of Facebook in 3 months than I’ve gotten out of LinkedIn in three years.
So Scott, I match your caps with five of my own. Facebook isn’t perfect for business right now, but social is social. Business works more from relationships that it ever did and no matter how good a job any new startup does in plugging the holes, it’s never going to have the critical mass that Facebook does.
I do think there will be social networks that will rise up but they will need to do a lot better of providing value-add than something like Linked-In. Meanwhile, I really can’t see anything knocking off Facebook as people’s generic social application.
In the meantime, my advice to anyone thinking about doing a social network is don’t think you can beat Facebook by doing something it doesn’t. Facebook will get it right and then you have nothing left to defend. If you can build a social community all well and good but that requires a lot more than just generic social networking features.