Facebook: Really using the Social Graph

The number of Applications on Facebook has risen continuously since Facebook announced its Developer API in mid 2007. While there has been a slew of applications, it is very easy to see a clear trend. As much as 50% of the applications on Facebook are identity definition applications like Characteristics and Compare People, where people characterize their friends, and get characterized in various ways. A big share of the rest of the pie is taken by communication enabling applications like FunWall and SuperPoke which identified the limitations in Facebook early-on and made a field-day of the lower restrictions on spamming in the early days of the Facebook Developer Platform.

Is that all? Can a Facebook Application go beyond the fun to be had out of throwing cows at people, and try to do something that is useful, engaging and fun at the same time? Is there much sense in trying to do anything like that on Facebook? Why not an independent site? These are big questions. And questions any one launching a web-app today must answer.

On taking a close look, it seems it makes  sense for a lot of web-apps to start out on Facebook, and here’s why:

1. An existing Social Graph: Any web-app that needs connections between its users to be established should consider being on Facebook. It makes a lot of sense to utilize the connections that people have already built on Facebook with their friends, family and strangers, than to try building it all over again from scratch in a stand-alone web-application.

2. Diverse user demographics: While almost all of the current most successful applications on Facebook have ridden on huge activity of teenagers on Facebook, there is a continuously rising base of users who are post their mid twenties, are college grads, and are not really interested in xMe and SuperPoke. A “useful, engaging and fun app” sure might appeal to them.

3. Freedom to Developers: Facebook allows developers to do pretty much anything inside their applications as long as they do not bother Facebook users who don’t want to use the application. This allows developers to do just about as much they could have done on an independent web-site, at a place the user frequents often.

The above three factors, combined together, offer a very exciting possibility for anyone launching a web-app today. Your web-app might be of the “serious” kind, and not as much “fun” or “viral” as a FunWall or Compare People, but it would still make a lot of sense to launch it on Facebook. What more, a “serious” application can potentially put the Social Graph to more interesting, beneficial and directly monetizable uses.

Of course, the opportunity comes with its own set of hazards. More later!

14 Responses to “Facebook: Really using the Social Graph”

  1. Prinks says:

    Guys, did you watch out kickwork?Its a facebook clone in drupal.Its about to become open source.Perfect timing for a big launch by Ebizontek

  2. Thanks Rohit…looked at the Cake Financials app. Can’t test much on it because it requires a trading account in the US, but I see what it can do. Our social app structure intended to be as participatory and transactional. I.E. view your friends’ public portfolios in FB/OS, get notified when they add/delete stocks and so on. We’re building these on the Moneyoga platform, but we thought if we did an FB app that linked in with our system they could do tracking and transactions through FB/OS and integrate with us.

    I doubt we’ll do the “send something” bits but we’re doing an internal microblogging engine like twitter which may be extensible to an open SN application. This is going to be fun.

    You’re right, it’s all unrelated users that count. We inadvertently released a pre-alpha version of our registration and portfolio facilities two weeks ago, and nearly 200 users have registered (there’s not much in terms of features!) While for me this is phenomenal, I know 200 is way too small a number (Our first padao is 10,000 actives) Some marketing will help, yes, and I must whip out the old excel sheet now…

  3. Niraj says:

    Hi Rohit,
    If there is anything that can be cited as a parallel of iAspire, it is 43 things. Though there are many differences. We are trying to concentrate on promoting communication among users, and also, it is not about “things”, but about aspirations, which has a more serious connotation.

    You are right in pointing out that if your app even has 25 active users in the beginning who are not friends and family, then the user base would increase with marketing. We have managed to reach and install base of 850 with around 170 active users (current figures) without any considerable effort on marketing as yet.. trying to build on it :)

    -Niraj

  4. Rohit says:

    Deepak

    You might like to check out the facebook app by cake financials. I think having a small part of your overall application as an opensocial/facebook app would make lot of sense. Something like “My Top 10 stocks”. Make it fun – Add stuff like – “Send a virtual something” for a helpful tip/advice, etc.

    “Kuch to hai” is a function of the number of active users who are not your friends and family AND the no. of people you think know about you application. If only the venturewoods community knows about your application, then maybe having 25 active users is good enough. With more marketing effort you will have more users.

Leave a Reply