MySpace Tom’s Words of Wisdom on Google+ and Facebook’s Future

MySpace Tom’s Words of Wisdom on Google+ and Facebook’s Future

I never thought I’d come back to the blog after a two year, one month and nineteen day hiatus to blog about Tom, the awkward looking friend we all popped our MySpace cherry with. But I have, and with that said, I’d like to buy Tom Anderson a beer for providing some interesting perspective on Facebook, Google+ and the topic of social media innovation.

Before the July 4th weekend officially began, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the world that “something awesome” would be announced this week. After enjoying the weekend, Americans settled in for a short work week to promptly ho-hum Facebook’s unveiling of Skype video calling and advanced chat features.

The global reaction was equally unenthusiastic.

The insider reaction was harsh. CNet, PC Mag, online marketing blogs and news outlets comprised of connected people had little positive to say about Facebook’s “awesome” innovation. The reaction was a bit predictable though considering that Google+ just hit the scene with an exclusive invite-only social community.

On one hand Google drops invites off to thousands of highly connected technology insiders and rewards them with an entirely new, engaging social community experience. On the other hand Facebook takes one of their least appealing features in chat and tries to innovate it by adding a technology that has been available to everyone directly from Skype for years.

The Role of Exclusivity in Google+

Earlier I referred to “insider” reaction of Facebook’s new features. Insiders, for the purpose of this discussion, are the numerous authors on prominent technology websites that covered both topics from every conceivable angle. These are the people that (even outside of Internet marketing) are early adopters of social web services. They’re the ones that spend their lives online… After all, that’s their job, right?

With Facebook – the “new” video and chat enhancements were rolled out to the masses in an instant. Intense market saturation meant that the majority of people who can now use those features on Facebook are not all white collared tech insiders. They’re blue collared workers, construction crew members, grocery store clerks and students just looking to stay connected with the one large social community that all of their peers are using.

They’re not the users Google+ cared to attract at launch.

Peer Pressure

Now let me ask you one thing: If you could choose to be associated with a group, would you choose to be in a massive group of people with few common threads, or, choose to be among some of the most well connected and influential people in the technology sector?

Since you and I are both “connected” like those industry insiders writing about Google+ and Facebook’s flop, I’ll assume that most of us would choose to rub elbows with the likes of Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Michael Arrington and Matt Cutts.

In other words, we’d like to be alongside a few of Google+’s most popular members.

You may want to be connected to these people because of who they are, what they’ve accomplished, or maybe for the successes that they have accumulated in their professional lives. There’s something about the underlying exclusivity factor and a desire to emulate the success of these potential peers that’s too much to ignore.

Few tech insiders would ever feel excited enough to write about how they’re as connected as Esther Millward, who could be some 84 year old woman from Oklahoma City who does needlepoint when her arthritis isn’t flaring up. For this reason, there’s little fanfare for Facebook’s video chat services.

To help me illustrate this point more clearly, here are the top 10 users of Google+ rated by the number of followers they have:

  1. Mark Zuckerberg – 44,871 Followers
  2. Larry Page – 30,271 Followers
  3. Sergey Brin – 23,426 Followers
  4. Vic Gundotra – 19,693 Followers
  5. Robert Scoble – 17,109 Followers
  6. Matt Cutts – 13,761 Followers
  7. Leo Laporte – 11,852 Followers
  8. Bradley Horowitz – 10,392 Followers
  9. Markus Persson – 9,552 Followers
  10. Kevin Rose – 9,504 Followers
  11. MG Siegler – 9,409 Followers
  12. Gina Trapani – 9,194 Followers
  13. Tom Anderson – 6,734 Followers
  14. Jeff Jarvis – 6,392 Followers
  15. Kelly Ellis – 6,265 Followers

Some very familiar faces up there, right?

The kicker for me is that Zuckerberg is #1. Bonus points to MySpace’s former CEO Tom and his 13th place ranking. Other notables in the top 100 most followed include the likes of Marissa Mayer, Danny Sullivan, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jason Calacanis, Chris Pirillo and Chris Brogan.

Okay… So, What About Tom?

It’s time to bring this back to Tom Anderson, the former CEO of MySpace and why I want to buy him a beer for his take on these topics.

It’s easy for us in search and the associated Internet related industries to write off Facebook’s announcement and hail Google+ as the next big thing. While that may well be the outcome from these two summer stories, here’s a healthy dose of broader reality that Tom served up (now available on TechCrunch):

“…lots of companies are going to build things like video chat, but Facebook competitors also have to build up their social graph first. Facebook’s job is to just keep innovating.”

It’s a very short comment but one that caught my attention immediately.

It’s easy for us in technology industries to assume that we’re the perfect case study for anything that is born online. The reality is, we’re not, and in my opinion, Tom’s position is one that we should certainly pay attention to.

When it comes to social communities, are there more than a few others more qualified to speak on the topic?

Before Google+ and Facebook ever hit the scene, MySpace was the social community for the masses. Since Facebook’s explosion began MySpace’s quick fall from grace has been well documented. Despite that media coverage, few people could be more aware of the struggles and challenges that took a company once valued at $12 billion (in 2007) to being sold for just $35 million (last month) than our old friend Tom Anderson.

For those keeping track that’s an eleven billion nine hundred sixty-five million dollar loss.

On the surface Tom’s quote may seem innocent enough. Taken in context though, it is clear that he offered his take while being supportive of Zuckerberg’s initial reactions to Google+.

After thinking about it a while I began to suspect that Tom was speaking on a topic that he wished he had known the truth about sooner, though. MySpace, for all of their success, did little innovating while at the top of the social world. That lack of innovation is what allowed Facebook to seize control with it’s simplicity and once exclusive membership.

The Future of Google+ and Facebook

The eventual success or failure of Google+ is already baked into the social network’s framework. I’m not suggesting that Google+ will fail, either. I’ve seen many people including Greg and Dave discuss their immediate admiration for the community as well as seeing some writing on the wall indicating that Facebook’s days may be numbered.

Those are both opinions that I certainly trust.

The only things I would suggest are that the make-or-break features that will propel Google+ toward it’s fate are cards that have already been dealt, and, that Facebook’s grasp of broad market share are the key to it’s longevity.

Google is known for their core search and advertising businesses. They’re also known for a host of products that die slow and painful deaths like Google Wave, Google Video, and most recently, Google Health. Could Google+ be the next in line, or is the exclusive, invite-only release (which follows in Facebook’s footsteps) something that suggests more precision?

For Facebook, will innovations like video chats be enough to keep people engaged? Facebook Places was initially discredited at launch, but more and more are using the feature and are jumping on board with it.

Perhaps we shouldn’t always be so quick to judge.

9 thoughts on “MySpace Tom’s Words of Wisdom on Google+ and Facebook’s Future

  1. Glad to see you blogging again!

    It will be interesting to see how these social networks continue to develop. I think as the generation that started with MySpace gets older they are looking for different things in a social network. It seems Facebook is now being view as for “kids” while Google+ is attracting an “older” crowd. In my opinion Facebook’s new video chat feature will be a sure hit with the younger generations.

  2. He’s baaaaaack…. :)

    Good stuff, man. Although I think that their video feature was less than thrilling, like Matt said, I’m sure that it will appeal to their younger users. I think + will be interesting, but I wonder about it’s longevity. Like you pointed out, so many of Google’s ‘ancillary’ products seem to just fade away. As they say – only time will tell, I suppose…

  3. Great thoughts Eric.

    Google is known for their core search and advertising businesses. They’re also known for a host of products that die slow and painful deaths like Google Wave, Google Video, and most recently, Google Health.

    Although I agree with you here, that google has had a history of starting projects only to have them fade out, I think that could be one of their strengths. They are willing to constantly innovate and late the usage data speak before they sink too much investment into anything. They are also (in the case of buzz) able to extend new products with ideas that may not of worked very well as standalone services.

    IMO, wave was brilliant, but way ahead of it’s time and executed poorly. It solved critical problems with e-mail that everyone has, but realistically, the concept itself needs to become decentralized from google to ever take off.

    IMO buzz also had a ton of promise with it’s potential for integration into existing social networks (that they never took advantage of). The large amounts of documentation on the various open social protocols they were working with showed the potential to allow people to transition _slowly_ from their existing platforms (namely facebook), while still keeping in touch with their friends and family that aren’t ready for the jump.

    Google+ has promise for sure, but I personally think they are going to need to find a way to integrate with existing services, or it will just be the realm of the tech scene-whores who sign up for everything that is private and beta, and that is not a real win for +.

    I’m honestly hoping for the day when open social networking protocols become the norm and social networking moves towards the realm of email, where each person has their own preference for a client, but all interact in one world. That’s obviously not in the financial interests of facebook or google though…

    1. Joe —

      Although I agree with you here, that google has had a history of starting projects only to have them fade out, I think that could be one of their strengths.

      Agreed. Trying and failing is better than not trying, and they have a track record of putting forth that effort. Clearly the 20% projects are a big part of the company’s corporate culture and will certainly lead to more spin-offs in the future.

      wave was brilliant… …but realistically, the concept itself needs to become decentralized from google to ever take off.

      I see this as a case of “the proof is in the pudding,” as it relates to when I wrote “[the] eventual success or failure of Google+ is already baked into the social network’s framework” in the above post.

      My underlying concern for Google+ is one that Tom brought to light. Facebook’s 750 million users aren’t going anywhere any time soon whereas Google needs to fight to take those users away. In my very limited exposure to Google+, I feel as though the community fails to innovate enough to provide mass appeal.

      Google+ has promise for sure, but I personally think they are going to need to find a way to integrate with existing services, or it will just be the realm of the tech scene-whores who sign up for everything that is private and beta, and that is not a real win for +.

      Love this quote. What types of services do you suggest they integrate with?

  4. The video chat is a retention play more than it was an innovation play for FB. Their largest growing demo is now 65+ or something ridiculous like that. Those people most likely will get excited about being able to talk to their family and friends etc. I think you bring up a good point though about Google+ not giving us enough of a reason to jump from the FB ship. I’m not completely convinced we need to either in order for it to be successful.

    Also — super happy to see a blog post in my streams from you Mister!! :)

  5. Laughing about the 4th of July weekend… My planned time off was eaten into as I chased after Google’s new shiny object, with initial pessimism. Now, I look at Facebook and wonder, “do I really want to post here and deal with comments from friends from high school?” Chat with them via video on Facebook? No thanks!

    I don’t know what the future holds, but I choose “to be among some of the most well connected and influential people in the technology sector” on Google+. Heck, that’s how I learned you were sharing your voice again in the blogosphere! Welcome back!

  6. Are you work here?

    Glad to have you back and great post. I hate Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is intrusive, difficult to use, and doesn’t do anything that I can’t do with a phone call or text message. Twitter just sucks. Screw hash tags.

    I jumped on the Google+ band wagon a few days ago and like it already. I don’t have people or their parents spying on me and I don’t have to look at someone’s keg stands in my “Facebook stream”. I plan to use Google+ to selectively stay in contact with people through out the web industry. I’m looking at you Meg Geddes…

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