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Facebook learns from MySpace mistakes

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Today there are 3845 applications on Facebook. Why are so many developers attracted to the Facebook platform? One of the answers is that Facebook learned from the mistakes that MySpace made.

The Facebook Platform is only about three months old; yet it has attracted 70,000 developers. No wonder since the user base is more than 30 million people, but Facebook also realizes that these developers are important to them.

In a recent article, Dare Obasanjo analyzed how MySpace managed to devalue their platform by making three mistakes; mistakes that Facebook seems to have avoided successfully. Dare writes:

So, why would developers who’ve witnessed the success of companies developing MySpace widgets rush to target a competing social networking site that has less users and requires more code to integrate with the site? The answer is that MySpace made the mistake of thinking that they were a distribution channel instead of a platform. If you are a distribution channel, you hold all the cards. Without you, they have no customers. On the other hand, if you are a platform vendor you realize that it is a symbiotic relationship and you have to make people building on your platform successful because of [not in spite of] your efforts.

Sure, Dare is employed by Microsoft and MySpace is in business with Google so there may be politics going on, but that does not make his arguments less interesting from the entrepreneur developer perspective.

The three classic mistakes that MySpace did according to Dare are:

  • They resented the success of developers on their platform and openly talked about competing with these developers.
  • They limited the revenue opportunities for the developers by blocking widgets that contained ads and links to other sites.
  • They didn’t invest in their platform, most notably by not creating an API and by not having a structured way for users to find and install the developers widgets.

About a year ago, MySpace explained that since most traffic to YouTube, Flickr and Photobucket (now owned by MySpace) came from their site, they could easily build such services themselves and create a parallel business and either match them or exceed them. Not really a mashup way of thinking?

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