How come Facebook succeeded where others failed?
Facebook has became a major part of the lives of 2,000,000,000 people, it is the most successful web platform and social media site ever. However, it was not the first one – others were doing social media sites before Facebook, but they didn’t succeed the way Facebook succeeded. In this article I want to analyze why Facebook succeeded where others failed.
Facebook was not the first social media site
For those of us that do not remember the history, Mark Zukerberg and the Facebook team didn’t invent social media: when Facebook launched, social media websites like MySpace and LinkedIn were already there. Prior to those sites there were forums and other social platforms, some of them likw IRC and newsgroups existed even before the web existed, and people used them to connect online. I actually was one of the first IRC users, web users and LinkedIn users (LinkedIn once sent me a “thank you for being our first trusted user” E-mail) so I could evident the process that the market went through. MySpace was very popular at the time, and it allowed people to communicate with friends and to get them to meet new people. It was brilliant, but still it is not as good as Facebook. How come MySpace didn’t succeed where Facebook did? Here are the reasons in my eyes:
Facebook entered the market exactly when the wider audience (the simple people, not the IT guys) was starting to gain access to the internet. The internet was growing rapidly, while the new audience was not of academic people, IT people or developers… it was of plumbers, electricians, small traders, housekeepers,… They started to get desktop computers and got hooked to the internet. So you may say – yes, but all those could have joined MySpace and not Facebook, so why Facebook succeeded and not others? well, Facebook attracted those audiences more and due to the following reasons:
Technology – Facebook was (and is) much simpler to use
I remember why I joined Facebook. A friend of mine, Gal Fridman, is an Olympic Gold Medalist in surfing and was overseas at that time, competing. We were both on MySpace, and he wanted to share photos with us, not just a couple of photos but lots of them. I remember his message – “hey, I found a much faster way to share photos, join this site, Facebook”. Facebook at that time had a “drag and drop” photos upload facility, just drop all your album, and it gets uploaded. With MySpace you had to upload photos one by one, and it was slooooowwwww. So we moved to use Facebook. Facebook also used Ajax in some places (today it is all Ajax) which means that things are updated on your screen like “automatically”, “in live”. You didn’t need to refresh your timeline, when someone wrote something, you saw it on your screen. With MySpace, the technology was flat, old fashioned, not live. So Facebook won.
Real identity, not aliases (!)
It may look as a disadvantage for an internet professional but recall that MySpace and most other social media sites and forums, at the time, used aliases or nicknames and not real identities. It created a lot of background noise (and abusive behavior) but also didn’t fit with how the new users (simple people) understood communication. For someone with a cell phone and a phone book of contacts, it made more sense to communicate with the real identity of a person, and not with an alias. So Facebook won the pot.
Free ride on developers, baby
Think for yourself…. most of our economy is built on the following social concept: technical / scientific people do not understand in marketing or business, so they need the blah blah people to get involved. This concept is valid everywhere – in low tech and in high tech. A builder can’t really sell himself, so he needs services like yellowpages to advertise himself or a graphic designer to design business cards. This is old school market that applies today bigtime – Facebook actually did something more dramatic, by opening a backdoor api for developers to use the Facebook platform for their own marketing and promotional needs. The idea was – “we give you users, you write code for us”. It worked so brilliantly that naive developers started to professionalize in the Facebook API, I’m saying naive – since Facebook didn’t really give you any users – you had (and still have) to promote yourself or maybe even “pay us for advertisement”, and beside that, professionalizing in the Facebook API is a big problem, since it is complex, changing very often and very specific. What happened though was, that developers started to develop for Facebook (that’s a free ride baby!) and bring their friends to test and use their apps… in the end, Facebook gained all those users, i.e. gained marketing instead of assisting with marketing, for offering just a base platform.
Aggressive American / silicon valley marketing
Last but not least – the American aggressive marketing machine. It is very helpful if you are American, and an American that is placed in the silicon valley and enjoying American investment money. Because that means that the network news, media, banking systems, ISPs… they are all to your side. If Facebook was invented in India, it would have stayed a local social media site, but since it is emerging from the US and specifically from the silicon valley – it connects Facebook to the most powerful marketing scheme that ever existed.
I hope I helped, please keep smiling 🙂