Imagine that you want to get a cell phone. Your friends and family are on Sprint, but T-Mobile is offering you a far better package. The phone they offer you has a more intuitive interface, their prices are more affordable, and they even have better signal in your area. Still imagining, Sprint and T-Mobile don’t allow cross-network communication. Sprint users can only call and text message other Sprint users. Same with T-Mobile. Unbelievable, right?
Yet, this is current state of social networks. With most people on Facebook, the choices of Google+ or Twitter or Diaspora or whatever don’t matter, since your friends won’t be on them. Since the networks don’t have any way to share data, such as posts or photos, between each other, no one can use a competing network, unless they’re entire family and group of friends move over. Each of those people also have the same barriers to leaving. Effectively, that leaves Facebook as the network monopoly.
With this built-in “network effect,” there is no way to compete. It doesn’t matter if Google+ or Twitter improve their own systems. It’s too difficult to attract people to leave The Facebook, since their friends might not be convinced to make the move also. So everyone sits where they are, and Facebook is free to have an inferior product, because they’ve already won.
Both Twitter and Google+ have better websites and mobile applications, but none of that matters, because of the Facebook lock-in.
If Facebook Bought WebOS
I wanted to weigh in on HP giving up on webOS. First, when HP bought
Palm webOS, it’s plan to be able to make it’s very own, unique set of products (phones, tablets, and desktops) all running the same OS, it sounded really appealing. Not that I think it’s necessarily the wrong move, but it is too bad they are giving up.
On to webOS’ future. I definitely could see Facebook buying it and using it to make their own phone/tablets. MG Siegler says it all:
They clearly believe in HTML5 and are working towards that future, but at the same time, they need their own mobile OS solution. WebOS would give them the best of both worlds.
Besides saving some effort, since Facebook has been so gun-ho about HTML5, they could spend that effort in making a unique experience. What was unique about the TouchPad? It was not the iPad? Yea, several Android tablets already have that claim, and are much better than the TouchPad.
Facebook could make a tablet what was always logged in1. With so many websites using Facebook Connect, they could offer the convenient “already logged into the web” experience. You no longer need to remember usernames and passwords, because your tablet will notice Facebook Connect buttons and automatically log you in. You could automatically see comments or likes from your friends, on any page you visited. Perhaps it could be a notification widget in the top, showing you some friends recommend the thing you’re looking at.
It wouldn’t be for everyone, but it sure would be something different, and something worth marketing about.