Facebook Developer Bubble

From Facebook Developer Garage a presentation two developers about going into business on their own. “You can write your application nights and weekends. Then, once it gets big, quit your day job. One of the most important things we learned was “time management 101 – the need to leave time to have conversations with people other than each other.”
There was an early-boom land-rush vibe. A tall VC in oxford and chinos lured developers with a pitch that Facebook will go public for billions, and users on Facebook apps are worth $1 to $10 each. The race is on to attract millions of users with viral applications, and cash out before users get annoyed and quit the app. Virality is becoming social spam — one of the apps has come up with a way of doing “reply-all” via SMS. Uh, thanks for bringing that into the world. There was envy and hatred for the “big incumbent players” (who started 3 months ago), who create new million-user apps by cross-promoting from their existing million-user apps.
The atmosphere was reminiscent of dot.com — without some of the sleaziest aspects of fraudulent dot.com business models, but also with less of the idealism about opening information and improving the world. The median age at the event was about 21.5.
There is also a somewhat dizzying look into the future. The handful of developers at Facebook who took questions at the last session were talking about allowing apps to add elements to the API (yowza!), hosting applications (!), strengthening groups. Platform looks like this, not like Microsoft. The decisions that the crew of developers on the couch in front of the room make now will affect how software works years from now.
The euphoria and the leap from virality into social spam still isn’t the interesting bit about Facebook to me. I’ve been walking around with various ideas for social applications for years, and Facebook provides a platform that makes it easy to bring those ideas into reality. There are all kinds of useful things that can be done, with an application based on people being able to communicate with their friends. Some of those things are socially useful, and some remunerative. The “get a bazillion users and sell out to a greater fool” model isn’t so interesting.
I guess that makes me a chump from the perspective of profit maximization, but I feel the same way about quizzes and horoscopes as about celebrity weddings and movies where things go boom — I don’t mind, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of doing things that might be less momentarily popular but are worth doing.

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