Facebook as platform

by Hugh

From Marc Andreessen: Why Facebook is an important, perhaps revolutionary step in the evolution of the web…and what plugging into the platform means (great, long article, and here are some juicy bits):

Metaphorically, Facebook is providing the ease and user attraction of MySpace-style embedding, coupled with the kind of integration you see with Firefox extensions, plus the added rocket fuel of automated viral distribution to a huge number of potential users, and the prospect of keeping 100% of any revenue your application can generate.

The leadership that the Facebook team is showing here rivals anything that the large and established software and web companies have done in this decade.

Fourth, and perhaps most significantly, when your application takes off on Facebook, you are very happy because you have lots of users, and you are very sad because your servers blow up.

This is happening in an environment with 24 million active users — active users defined as users active on the site in the last 30 days. 50% of active users return to the site daily. 100,000 new users join per day. 45 billion page views per month and growing. 50 million users, and a lot more page views, predicted by the end of 2007.

An application that takes off on Facebook is very quickly adopted by hundreds of thousands, and then millions — in days! — and then ultimately tens of millions of users.

Translation: unless you already have, or are prepared to quickly procure, a 100-500+ server infrastructure and everything associated with it — networking gear, storage gear, ISP interconnetions, monitoring systems, firewalls, load balancers, provisioning systems, etc. — and a killer operations team, launching a successful Facebook application may well be a self-defeating proposition.

The implication is, in my view, quite clear — the Facebook Platform is primarily for use by either big companies, or venture-backed startups with the funding and capability to handle the slightly insane scale requirements. Individual developers are going to have a very hard time taking advantage of it in useful ways