Ganging Up On The Leader

  The neverending Risk game in AT 
  Originally uploaded by Aaron Michael Brown.

When I was a kid, I played a lot of Risk, the board game where your aim is to take over the world. Nowadays, when I want to play Risk, I do it on Facebook.

The thing that always happens in Risk is everyone starts ganging up on the leader. It’s the only way to stop someone who has control of large continents with lots of armies.

That’s where Facebook is today in open social networks. It has the social network with the most mojo (if not the most traffic), it has an open platform that has attracted a mind boggling number of developers, and it is about to launch a profile based ad targeting network that certainly appears to be a compelling offer for advertisers. Not to mention at whopping $15bn valuation thanks to Microsoft.

No wonder the other players in social networking are ganging up on them. The NY Times has a story up that explains how Google has roped a number of other social nets (including LinkedIn, hi5, Friendster, Plaxo and Ning) into supporting their "open social net platform". What this means is you can develop on top of the Google tools and immediately run on many platforms instead of just one.

I think this is smart. Just yesterday I was emailing with several colleagues about a company we are involved in. They are trying to decide which of the coming open social net platforms to support (myspace, beebo, google, meebo, etc, etc). Social networking is starting to look like the mobile business, there are too many things that you need to write to.

It’s true that you can wait until a platform has scale (as Facebook does) and just support those platforms. That’s what most developers do. But it’s not lost on anyone that most of the Facebook apps that have become popular were launched at the very start. Getting on board early is a big advantage.

So a set of standards is a welcome thing. I like what Google is doing with Open Social. Ganging up on the leader is a time honored way of competing. And a level playing field is usually good for the newcomers, and we have a portfolio full of newcomers.