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Thursday, July 19, 2007


Michael Weiksner

Facebook = visual basic? Are you trying to trash facebook? I mean, I love visual basic as much as the next techie but was it transformational? I guess the point is that facebook is a platform, but there are more powerful platforms that have been created than visual basic!

Kit Plummer

But, wait there's one huge problem with the current FB API. It denies the potential for SPAM.

I know a few people who are using FB as their email replacement because messages can come in from of crap. But, the message display/INBOX is so old school...i'd rather use Pine.

No SPAM, no money. But, happy devers and users.

Paul Reilly

Great rant, I think you've hit the nail on the head with this post. :)


you cant scroll down your blog for two seconds without advertising popping up.


@Industrial14: # invites help, but not as important as application messaging / feed notification. also, # app users isn't necessarily the right metric -- app ACTIVITY is probably more important than installed base. i have lots of profile app bling, but only a few that i use actively.

in any case, the article link is from end of june, and there are already a number of apps that started since then that are doing pretty well -- ex: BoozeMail started 6/15, but still had pretty amazing growth after the dial down on invites, and is currently at 645K users, with a *daily* growth rate >7%. Advanced Wall started 6/21, has 550K users, daily growth rate >30% (in fact, looks like they figured something out recently that increased the growth rate in july).

there's also a bunch of Harry Potter related stuff that's just profile bling, started after end of June, and app installs are growing like crazy.

so in summary:
1) there are apps that started around/after the invite dialdown that are still growing like wildfire
2) measure app growth / virality purely based on # installs is probably a misleading metric... usage metrics (that aren't reported by FB) are probably better measures of user engagement.

again, i stand by my earlier point... app messaging & notifications are probably a lot more important than purely # invites.


Just curious what you would say to this article...

Jeremiah Owyang

Haters are a sign of POWER! You've crossed the tottering line!


wow. . . thats a lot of comments, was gonna leave something insightfull but now I feel stupid :)

truly though, is facebook like java (value created but not captured) or google (value created AND later captured) . . . until is can be google, its still just all potential . . .

Bryan Starbuck

Great post and dead on. Microsoft's success in the past has come in waves as they do something successful. VB is one wave you talk about above. Full Dynamic HTML in IE version 4 was another (does anyone use Netscape Layers anymore?). There are several more...

Now is the time for Microsoft to build a platform for the web. ASP.NET so far is hitting a ceiling. Microsoft has so many architectural pieces already ready: C#/CLR, Avalon/WPF, etc.

What is different this time is that the base of Facebook isn't a platform. It is a web site that people come to every day. Then they built a platform on top.

This difference will make this generation of platforms different than in the past.

Justin Smith

I was more of a PASCAL guy myself when I was just getting my sea legs :)

I agree with you Dave - not only is developing for Facebook so much fun because of the social testbed, but because any "n00b" can crank something out in a couple days! That's a powerful combination...


Poll for "Facebook is the next..."


@michael: kiss-kiss, love you too hon ;)

sweet. now i officially have haterz!

bring on them trolls, dammit. i need the page views.

ps - michael: if you think this is the ceiling on my idiocy you're sorely mistaken... i've got plenty more stupidity where that came from. can i sign you up for regular trolling? awesome.

hey mom! i've got a troll! i'm somebody!

- dave "tottering idiot" mcclure

nik cubrilovic

I view visual basic as just an abstraction of the windows (or DOS) API. when you are dragging around interface components all that is happening is the IDE is writing the code for you. Visual Basic is an abstracted, event-driven and loosely typed development environment (language + libraries + IDE). It is more analogous to Javascript.

The visual basic equivalent on the web is using dreamweaver or radrails, or even Zoho Creator or DabbleDB (although they are data/CRUD driven, rather than event driven)

With Facebook, it is still BYO dev environment - and their platform doesn't give you much more than identity and distribution.

For the VB analogy to work, FB would have to complete the platform and provide the IDE components as well. They should build an Eclipse extension and let developers write Javascript apps that they will host. Only with that, and a sandbox environment, will it start to resemble what Visual Basic did on the desktop.

I am sure they will get there.

I agree that stating that Facebook is just AOL is very short sighted (when did AOL ever let third parties into their silo? or even open up their auth), but I don't think there is an equivalent metaphor either


that is seriously the stupidest post I've read in eons.... they don't even have a f-ing revenue model that works.

You officially just became an idiot in my book (you were only tottering there before).

Dave Hodson

Your enthusiasm for FB is oozing through my keyboard - I love it ... but "fucking kill Google"? Dunno about that, they have to at least get an ad model that works first...

Nate Westheimer

How does FB's shooing of OpenID play into this? Wouldn't true "interoperability" be nice here? I've been hearing this grumbling.

Peter C

Interesting stuff, Dave. I had to compose a response. I hope Facebook is not the next Visual Basic, but the next LAMP.

Mario Romero

finally! someone who gets it, great post

Robert Gorell


Really exciting post... Definitely woke my head up this morning.

One thing, though... I don't see how Facebook will kill Google if they're not focusing on creating social environments as much as they are on delivery and distribution. For instance, they might even give the internet away for free if it suits them. Wouldn't take people long to get used to that...

Steve Poland

Dave -- nice read. Love the passion.

bernard lunn

This is the best "bull" case for Facebook I have read and their Parakey acquisition does start to convince me that they are for real and not just pumping valuation for an exit that makes turning down Yahoo's $1.6bn seem like a smart move. On that we can just wait and see.

My major scepticism is an old media issue - social media is lousy way to generate business versus search - no database of intentions and users too busy connecting with each other to read the ads. I have seen this viewed as old media thinking, but revenue has to come from somewhere - subscriptions or ads and I cannot believe it is going to be subscriptions.

I also think that social media may have reverse economy of scale - the more join the less useful/cool it becomes for the original members and audiences bifurcate.

Particularly if there is too much drive to monetize and marketeers get a chance to push their products (in ultra cool, student friendly, heavily embedded and disguised ways of course) and then the smart people leave the "mall" for cooler places to hangout.

My sense is that The Valley wants a big new success story to follow Google as well as a counterweight to Google. So lots of motivation and with an open API where small start-ups can make money maybe some kind of eBay economy will emerge. But when Microsoft was on the rise we saw lots of Microsoft killers get a lot of support and get nowhere.

Nobody wants dominance by one player, whether Microsoft or Google. If Facebook remains closed their support from developers/start-ups will fade once the hype phase recedes. If they really open up then it could be a big deal.

I have seen one market where closed won out against open despite all the players rooting for open. That was when Bloomberg refused to distribute their data as digital data feeds for other platforms to slice and dice. Bloomberg's demise was constantly predicted. They won by delivering a better service that really met the needs of traders. It was a classic focus, focus, focus story. If Facebook was focussed on one market - say college students - I could see them having that focus and just being the best. But being the best and most focussed for everybody on the planet...

Jeremiah Owyang

Great rant

And we said that AOL was going to dominate the web, the MS, the Google.

Things swing back and forth.

Everyone loves this picture of you BTW


@Eric: ok, so maybe i'm a little over the top on VB *exclusively* being the downfall of all Microsoft's early 90's competitors, but Visual Basic was the onramp for a lot of folks to Windows, and i'd still maintain the Windows app dev environment in general (& Microsoft's developer evangelism specifically) was what created a critical mass of geeks building for the Windows platform.

If it was just the high-end apps that created success, well there were plenty of people building for Apple and DOS and OS/2 -- including Microsoft in fact. MS shipped Word & Excel for the Mac too. why didn't Apple win? everything was prettier, but it didn't become mainstream again until Steve got back in the saddle years later.

>>"Facebook Platform is... VB for Facebook"

well i totally agree there, but that's exactly my point. Facebook isn't focused on being *open*, they're focused on being *better*. (but to be accurate, they have made their API accessible outside FB as well, along with Facebook auth/login).

what i'd observe is that while some folks are complaining about Facebook being a walled garden, if the walled garden is big enough & full of water & plants & beautiful things & lots of other people (30M & growing), then why the hell do i care? why do i need to leave? what if the land outside the walled garden is an "open" but barren desert?

look i'm not apologizing for monopolists or closed societies here, i'm just saying that FB Platform is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE better than what anyone else has done to date.

until someone comes up with a RICHER environment, open or closed Facebook is a better app dev platform. just like Visual Basic.

- dmc

Eric Marcoullier

I think that Virtual Basic's direct contribution to the downfall of MS's competition is debatable. Software makes the platform and as you pointed out, the vast majority of VB-based software was pure shite.

Facebook has made a tremendous step here, but I'm still with Kottke on this one. The Facebook Platform is, if anything, VB for Facebook. I don't expect to be surfing any sites beyond FB any time soon seeing any apps built on the Facebook platform. Until then, the platform will be a great way for people to create short-term annuities, but probably not much more.

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