Facebook sucking in apps from the rest of the web

It is getting fashionable to take a dig at Facebook these days.  It seems the company is nearing the peak of it’s hype curve and will shortly move into the phase when the popular opinion becomes that the company won’t be that successful after all.  Second Life is firmly in that phase at the moment.

This chart from ModernLifeRubbish captures this thought graphically.

I would look at things slightly differently to this.

Facebook is still pretty new and people are just getting used to how to use it.  This is particularly true here in Europe.  The whole Facebook apps thing is perhaps the best example of what I’m talking about here.  Four or five months ago when they were new we all installed and played around with all sorts of crappy apps for the novelty value.  We also invited all our friends to do the same.  This initial flurry of activity was kind of interesting but much of it had little real value and people have been left feeling that they are suffering from application spam.

Now that the novelty has worn off and we are getting to grips with what we actually want to use Facebook apps for things are changing.  Firstly, most people I know are already ignoring most of the application invitations they receive, and secondly they are starting to be careful about not spamming their friends with application invites they might not welcome.  This is a natural progression from initial interest to looking for real value.  It happened before with viral emails – to start with we thought they were hilarious and sent them to all our friends, but now we are a bit bored with them and only forward on the ones that are really funny.

By this analogy the question with Facebook apps the question is whether there are any really useful ones, i.e. equivalents to the really funny virals that we still send on to our friends.  If there are then people will use them and tell their friends about them.

For me the answer to this question is an emphatic ‘yes’.  There are now two Facebook apps I use that have stolen me as a customer from other sites.  I use Blogfriends in place of Netvibes most of the time and this weekend I started using Visual Bookshelf in place of LibraryThing.  (If you are into this question check out this comparison of LibraryThing and Visual Bookshelf.)

We won’t know for some months whether Facebook will go on to greater heights or whether it will hit a plateau and then decline, as per the chart above.  My feeling is that people will come through this period with patterns of usage that get real value out of Facebook, and that the company will go on to get stronger.  The value derived will be different for different people – I like the status updates and the two apps I mention, my dad is using it to share and tag family photos, other people use groups, and so on, but there is real utility there.  The social graph is very powerful.

It was observing my own behaviour and how the power of the social graph sucked two apps that I use from off the web and onto the Facebook platform that really convinced me of this point.