Last night I has some kind of epiphany while driving home. I was trying to think more about the big picture of social networks, Facebook, and start pages. Where is this really going and where do companies need to be? Since Facebook opened up their platform any successful social network will have to follow. Just because you have 150 million users today, doesn’t mean they won’t go jump on the next big thing. Any social network that plans on being a serious player in the future is going to have to open up at some point. The tides are changing and I think we are rapidly headed toward Web 3.0, a widgetized world in which all the information I need comes directly to me. Once platforms become open though, and all the feature sets become similar, what is each networks competitive advantage? The only competitive advantage each network has is their user base. Facebook targeted college students, MySpace high schoolers and middle schoolers, and LinkedIn targeted professionals.
If you plan on launching a social network, you must figure out your niche and then open up your platform once you have created a user base. As if there weren’t enough signs pointing to the widgetization of the web, two big news events happened today. Marc Andreessen’s Ning, the open source social network received a new round of financing totalling $44 million. Additionally, Bay Partners launched a Facebook-Apps venture fund. Ultimately there will be two major components moving forward:
- Social Networks - Social networks will be focused on specific niches. We already saw a huge boom in these during the Web 2.0 phase. While these will still sporadically pop-up, many of the niches have already been fulfilled.
- Widgets - All organizations are going to need to start launching widgets. These widgets will be able to plug directly in to their social network of choice. In this new phase there will be a huge boom in companies that build widget portfolios, create widgets for other companies, and expand their existing offerings via widgets. Bottom line is widgets are officially going mainstream.
While this isn’t exactly new news, I think the widgification of the web has just gained significant traction with the opening of the Facebook platform. With today’s news of a new venture company and Ning’s funding, it helps support the argument that widgification has gone mainstream.