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Is Facebook Going Down The Tubes? And What Can Linkedin Learn From This?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Linkedin's recent announcement about opening up to developers may also open it up to what is happening to Facebook.

As Facebook works through its own "opening up," becomes more unmanageable, and lurches in the direction of MySpace, will this be an opportunity for another "clean" no frills social networking site to arise? Or will Facebook's current problems just be another example of the churn that inevitably develops when social networking tries to be too many things with too many people?

That's the challenge that Linkedin will need to manage. Mark Evans' Five Things That Could Kill Facebook captures my concerns about Facebook quite nicely and reflects what I've seen myself recently as my use of Facebook has expanded. 

Here's my own Facebook list:

  1. Spam is increasing.
  2. Ads are becoming more visible.
  3. The previously clean interface is becoming more complex.
  4. I'm getting "friend" requests from people I  don't know. (That by itself is not bad, but often when  I visit their profile there's nothing there. I've taken then to checking them out on Linkedin.)
  5. I can't figure out what half the applications are that I'm being asked to "share."

While I think that treating a social network as a "platform" makes a great deal of business sense -- increasing value to members increases "stickiness" -- some of the applications being offered provide functionality that seemb hobbled by the targeting of members only. This "walled garden" impact ultimately reduces the free flow of information across the web and reduces participation's value to me. (Why should I write a movie review for Facebook if I can publish my own for open access by all?)

Now, it's perhaps too early in Facebook's "open platform" phase to really know if this will be good or bad for its members. For me, I have my doubts as I've noted above, and I hope Linkedin thinks long and hard about what else it offers to its members.

Before Linkedin  opens itself up to external developers and systems, I wish they would upgrade the internal networking capabilities of the system. It's silly, for example, for Linkedin members to have to continue using using systems such as Yahoo! Groups for group activities (and I'm a moerator on the Yahoo! group Linkedin Bloggers). If I were Linkedin that's where I would start -- and I'd study Facebook's experience in this area quite carefully.


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