Sunday, 30 December 2007


Facebook claims its a social utility that connects you with the people around you. That claim is dependent on the three key audiences: the users; the advertisers; and the application developers. It's an open platform so anyone can develop apps, but as mentioned in previous postings, getting people to install them is difficult, but getting them to use them is an even more difficult task.

The goal of the most ambitious developer is to make their app a utility that is essential to everyday interaction on Facebook. To work out which apps are becoming utilities, I developed the grid below. Using number of installs as the x-axis, and percentage of active users as the y-axis. I named the quadrants as follows: Core Utilities (top right); Niche Utility (top left); Low impact (bottom left); and Contagious fad (bottom right) - These are apps you might use once or twice, as they sound like great ideas, but the novelty runs short, and they end up as fads... after this honeymoon period you lose interest and only have a passing interest as seen through your Facebook Newsfeed. Although fads can be profitable, remember the Rubik's Cube?

As shown in the grid below the apps that make it to the Core Utility quadrant are: Funwall, Superwall, and Topfriends. These are the monster apps on Facebook.

The apps I've highlighted in the Contagious Facility quadrant are: Movies, SuperPoke!, XMe, Likeness, and Causes. If we stripped out Funwall, Superwall, and Topfriends we'd probably get some presence in the Niche Utilities quadrant, but so far this quadrant is empty, but watch this space. The Low Impact quadrant is the most populated. I've only included the top 250 apps on this chart, but there are thousands of them that would cluster in that bottom left hand corner. The app market is a long tail as the chart below shows. This is a 'rich get richer' network effects model, where the most successful apps will grow because they are already successful.

It's the same Hollywood Economics that drives pay deals in Hollywood, sport, and finance. Success guarantees more success. Facebook is a social utility, so its users naturally want to use what your friends are using, and new users will want to do the same as well, so expect this lead to increase.