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.


#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Bob Warfield

    I think this could be even more interesting than “gang up on the leader”, although that is certainly an opening gambit.I noted the number of business related partners and started to wonder what can happen if specialized business social networks could be linked. For example, suppose companies in the future have you join their social network, built on OpenSocial, instead of registering you product. Joining the network accomplishes the registration. Now suppose all these can collaborate for various purposes and they know full well how to collaborate because of your profile information. Let’s say for example that your office supplies outfit knows via these networks which printer you own, so when you need more toner, it cheerfully presents exactly the right cartridge. Or perhaps your a wine lover, and join a comminities associated with each of your wine merchants. Over time, they use Google to pool profile information and help hone in on what sorts of wines you prefer.More on my blog, but there are lots of possibilities here in the fullness of time:http://smoothspan.wordpress

  2. Danny Moon

    I know the primary point of the post was in regards to Facebook. But you are absolutely correct about Risk. I was always shocked when we actually finished a game and usually that was the result of some people throwing in the towel after hours and hours of play. World domination is hard.

    1. fredwilson

      World domination is hard – so true.That is something that google and facebook and apple should all think aboutfred

  3. bsiscovick

    I think Open Social is very strong play by Google and crew. Marc Andreessen has a very interesting discussion on this topic today (….I think this is an important step towards a world in which the Internet itself is a massive open social network – a world in which I completely own my profile/identity and plug in and share whatever I choose with whomever I choose through whatever channels I choose. Talk about giving power back to the consumer!The potential is exponential.

  4. Tom W.

    “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.”Ha – that could be describing the presidential race, Fred.