Why Facebook Will Flourish: No Food Fights or Vampires On LinkedIn

October 12, 2007

I came across an interesting article on the NYTimes.com website today:

LinkedIn Plans To Open Up In A Closed Sort of Way

The article is an interview with Dan Nye, the CEO at LinkedIn.

A few points from the article:

1. LinkedIn will have to "approve" any company that wants to tap into its system.

2. Nye wants to keep the apps "all business".

3. There will no food fights on LinkedIn. So, unlike Facebook there will be no "frivolous" apps that allow users to throw food at each other, send each other virtual beers or some of the other fun and frolicing that occurs.

4. LinkedIn will take a revenue share from any apps that are built on it's platform.

As a Facebook user, I personally find most of the applications built by third-parties inane and time-wasting. I don't want to be a vampire or throw food at my Facebook friends. Perhaps you don't either. But, that's not the point. As a software entrepreneur, I think what makes a platform appealing is the ability to exercise some creativitiy -- within technical and infrastructure limits.

When I first started developing for Windows (and for that matter DOS), I knew there were restrictions. But, the restrictions were not that I needed to seek approval from Microsoft -- they were technical limitations and market limitations. If I wanted to develop a silly application that reversed the characters in a string and printed it out, so be it. If I wanted to make that application available to everyone. So be it.

Though I can understand the motivations for LinkedIn focusing on its users/customers in order to ensure they are getting maximum value, I'm not sure that trying to be highly selective about which apps are approved and available is the optimum strategy. One of the big advantages of building a platform and allowing third-parties to create value on top of it is that you are not limited by your own creativity. Others with interesting ideas can try them out. Some will succeed and some will fail.

Back to Facebook. Sure, lots of the apps are silly, but I get to decide which ones I use. Just like Windows (another platform), there are literally tens of thousands of apps that are out there. I use a small fraction, but in many cases, it’s a *different* small fraction than the ones you use. A good platform allows this "free market of ideas" and fosters creativity. You're going to get a lot of crap, but that's the price you pay for the good stuff.

So, although I agree that virtual food fights are a waste of time, sometimes you have to allow a bit of fun and frolic in order to flourish. And, there is such a thing as going too far in order to "protect" your customers. As a customer myself, I'd rather decide what I find useful or interesting. What do you think?

Written by Dharmesh Shah

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