Eric Schonfeld at TechCrunch recently wrote about a presentation given at the Web2.0 summit by Jeff Huber, Google’s vice president of engineering, the upshot being “the web is the platform”
Eric’s summation “take that facebook”. Now i’m no facebook fanboy, i’ve called them the AOL of web 2.0 and agreed with Robert Scoble’s evaluation of Facebooks data strategy as one of a Roach Motel. That being said, Facebook has got a couple of core things right that enable its platform to grow and that is identity and trust, both things that are sorely lacking on the platform (ie the web) that Jeff Huber is talking about. When the internet sorts out it’s problems with identity and trust then potentially Facebook can be worried, but in the meantime, it could take years for that to happen.
Facebook essentially started it’s business around mediating connections between people, people who went to the same school. You actually needed to have a .edu address to be in Facebook, and even the email address from the specific school who’s network you were going to join. Facebook is of course doing the same things for companies now, I’m in the Nokia network, which required a Nokia email address. It’s not a perfect system, but my experience is that I rarely come across “anonymous cowards” on Facebook, and spam is virtually non existent, and easy to remedy, remove any friend that spams. The internet? Not so much.
Along with this focus on mediating identity comes a sort of built in trust. I must have installed 20 or 30 applications on my profile, they all get access to the information and connections on my profile, and I didn’t think twice about it. The couple of apps that sucked I removed. I can’t say this about apps on the web, I have a much more stringent criteria as to the apps I use on the web, or widgets I install on my blog (and most of those are mediated by the wordpress community so again not really the web).
So anyway, I totally agree with Jeff Huber, the web is the platform, but until the standards for handling identity and trust are figured out Facebook will continue to grow, and grow fast.