The game is social networks. The stakes are very high, and the news and rumors are flying fast, furiously, and inaccurately. Here is the latest in the saga of Google’s Social Networking entry which, with Myspace’s participation, is the new Social Networking juggernaut (though it remains to be seen how all the participants will use it).
More on the Open Social vs Facebook battle for the hearts and minds of developers and, far more importantly, users:
1) After a 240,000,000 partnership with Microsoft the blogs (including here) lit up soon after suggesting that Facebook recieved another 500 million from two other private groups. This was false. It is very conspicuous in my view that the rumor rose and spread so fast, and that Facebook did nothing to quell that rumor. This news is still shaking out over at TechCrunch which reported the rumor of the 500 million and now reports it was false. Another example of how news at the speed of real time may not be news at all.
2) Google says Open Social is open to Facebook and all are welcome (I believe them).
3) Facebook says Google was not keeping them in the loop on Open Social (I believe that as well)
4) Facebook says they may join the Open Social movement, but suggest they have their own great stuff coming shortly. I’m skeptical they can “out open” Google, though they probably could come up with some great new social networking applications quickly.
However on balance I think Facebook really is in big trouble here. Much of the recent hype – which was overdone anyway – assumed that Facebook would be the key beneficiary of the boom in social networking. The reasoning suggested that although Myspace is bigger than Facebook it was a “closed” environment, favored by a demographic that has far less value to advertisers. Facebook, that thinking went, will continue to grow explosively, open up gradually, target advertising very directly, and become the dominant social networking platform.
Then there was Facebook’s refusal to sell to Yahoo for a reported 1+ billion. This was followed by big negotiations with many key players, culminating a (much overhyped) 240 million deal with Microsoft to cooperate, run MS Live searches, and drive some MS and Facebook advertising. Then came the false rumor of 500,000,000 more in capital which for many seemed to solidify Facebook’s valuation of 15 billion – a somewhat sloppy projection of the Microsoft partnership price.
So, what is Facebook worth in an Open Social world where even Myspace is a Google partner? No, the answer is not 15 billion.