Dear API developers and API providers,
I just came accross Marc Andreessen’s blog posting where he analyzes the Facebook platform and gives his opinion on several aspects. One thing was very remarkable about the way Facebook boosts the usage of the 3rd party applications that have been registered on the platform:
And then, on top of that, Facebook is providing a highly viral distribution engine for applications that plug into its platform. As a user, you get notified when your friends start using an application; you can then start using that same application with one click. At which point, all of your friends become aware that you have started using that application, and the cycle continues. The result is that a successful application on Facebook can grow to a million users or more within a couple of weeks of creation.
This is a really cool viral distribution model for applications based on an API of a „Web2.0 social foobar application“. It presumes that 3rd party applications have to register on the platform (which is usually a good idea for social network platforms as there are of course data privacy concerns of the platform’s users) and that users have to select which applications they want to use. This selection will be displayed to your friends/contacts and so enables them to see which 3rd party applications of the platform you are using. The consequence is that they might of course be interested to use this application, too, which is the viral boost for the 3rd party application.
That explains why 3rd party applications like iLike (Update: that service is out of business since 2012) grew like hell from under 40,000 facebook users to now more than 3 million facebook users.
Marc’s analysis is definitively worth a read.