Thursday, November 08, 2007

FriendSpam. Viral ain't all good.

Facebook's SocialAds have great promise. But I hope for their sake they have overcome an issue that seems part of the fabric of this particualar social network.

The default mode of every application I use on Facebook is that as soon as I sample it I am presented with a pre-filled series of tickboxes against my friends - whom it's all to easy to infect with whatever I fancy. It is this which has played a huge part in driving facebook's exponential growth.

This is all good for SocialAds when/if I am selective. But the default is not to be. In other words the balance is in favour of spamming all my friends.
SocialAds will be making a dangerous assumption if it believes all my friends want the same things.

Spam is initially ignored, moves on to annoy, and ultimately inspires an angry backlash.
So the very thing that has driven the exponential growth for Facebook is exactly what could crush its potential for financial success - indeed kill it as a platform. Look at the growing annoyance with vampires and zombies on facebook, for example.

Of course, we have to assume that facebook have worked this out and that the touch will be lighter, that segmentation will be driven by friend interactions and selections. But there are signs the viral imperative is endemic in facebook's build.

For example, I sent a message to the Friends of Faster Future group on facebook yesterday. And then I had to send another - apologising.
It seems many of the group received my first message five times - an error entirely created by the facebook machine (update - I note my facebook ID stopped working this morning [10.10am], turning the friend badge on this blog into a simple link to facebook - and preventing me from accessing my facebook account altogether - not a good time for the tech to go belly up is it Mr Z?). Annoying enough if it's from a friend and relevant to you. Imagine if either of those conditions isn't met?

Did Facebook open the viral throttle only so it could grow to this commercially viable scale and is now ready to close it in the interests of actual commercial success?
The balance between the needs of its users and the needs of its commercial partners will be a tricky one to maintain.

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