Facebook Ban and Local Entrepreneurs – analysis by Hassan Baig of White Rabbit

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When facebook was banned my first thoughts moved to the apps we covered recently Feline Frenzy, Carom Challenge and Fly By, what effects does this have on them the development efforts and traffic etc.

Hassan Baig (White Rabbit) the creators of Feline Frenzy, has provided once again a very insightful view of things. Note to other young entrepreneurs this is the level of understanding of your target audience and market you should have to have a shot at success, you should be able to reorganize quickly in any circumstances. For me I am now a permanent fan of Hassan will try to pick his brain every now and then. Following is his un altered response. And once again thanks for him to take time out to share his thoughts for others to learn from.

“This short-term hiccup is inconsequential to Facebook developers in Pakistan. For example, Facebook is completely banned in Iran and China but users who want to access it are still able to do so thanks to proxy servers and such. In other words, developers are still free to develop for the global market.

However, if a developer’s focusing on the local market as a target, they could find themselves in rough waters in case this ban extends beyond 31st of May.

So that’s the short term ripple.

Could there be a longer term consequence too? Yes there could. However, before we get to what the long term worst case looks like, I’d like to point out that Facebook’s facing a perfect storm right now in the shape of the confluence of the following occurrences:

  • Public concern for Facebook’s abuse of privacy policy.
  • Privacy concerns compounded by Zuckerberg’s recently revealed IM transcript. A PR nightmare, that.
  • Farmville’s maker Zynga’s aggressive posturing against Facebook. And though their initial threat of completely boycotting Facebook may have subsided, enough feathers have been ruffled to hint at a mercurial future.
  • And last but not least, the backlash against Facebook emanating from Muslim countries headed by Pakistan’s country-wide blackout.

Clearly, all of these grievances can be dealt with by an efficient, responsible management. However, Zuckerberg’s never been a smooth operator and there exist several question marks over his suitability as the company’s continued leader. So it’s conceivable that even as the social networking giant is getting ready to announce 500 million users, its future may not pan out to be what Zuckerberg dreamed of in his Harvard dorm.

So then, what’s the worst case scenario?

Facebook’s user growth first plateaus and then starts dwindling (much like what’s happening to Myspace).

And this is how such an eventuality can be catalyzed: A simpler, more private social networking tool with strong VC funding comes to the fore. Or, other social networks jump at the opportunity and cannibalize Facebook’s popularity. Or both.

How can the Facebook development community deal with this? Well firstly by realizing that the worst case scenario described above may not happen, at least not in the short term. In the medium and long term, there are ways to diversify their product offering.

For instance, building social applications with the Open Social standard can open up your social application to hi5, LinkedIn, MySpace, Netlog, Ning, Orkut, and Yahoo. Out of all of these, the highest recommended is hi5 – which is turning out to be a very lucrative distribution platform with good leadership and business sense. And infact, hi5’s looking to sync itself with the Facebook API too, so one doesn’t necessarily have to endorse Open Social to deploy on it. Hi5’s worth a look for any social game development company out there.

Overall, social game developers have the luxury to keep their options open in the long term. The current Facebook fiasco though is a good wakeup call for those who haven’t thought about diversification yet. Never keep all eggs in one basket, and keep researching in this fast-paced, thoroughly dynamic industry. Those who anticipate and plan for future disruptions will truly go big.

-Hassan “

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6 Comments

  • Great post Hassan!

    I’d like to add one more to Facebook’s privacy woes: Facebook caught sharing secret data with advertisers: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/05/latest-facebook-blunder-secret-data-sharing-with-advertisers.ars

    And lets not forget the never ending ConnectU link which keeps coming back up.

    At this stage, all game developers should diversify gaming platforms. You could also leave Facebook and create a standalone site but the cost of user acquisition is 4x more on say Google AdWords than within Facebook.

    I agree with the bulk of your post but I think you are way off on Zuckerberg. You may not like him but unlike other CEOs, he has the courage to do the big changes required in the Facebook platform even if it makes him unpopular. Anyone who can do that shows the mark of a great leader. When you’re disruptive, you will piss people off, you will polarize them. People who are comfortable with the existing system will cry foul. But an innovator won’t slow down.

    I think the new ‘like’ butto for the web and the auto-generated facebook content pages around topics is WAY better than plain vanilla twitter search and does a good job of user generated content aggregation.

  • @Nash: Yea I was a little ambiguous in my POV about Zuckerberg. You’re right that he’s not someone who lacks ideas or the courage to execute them. I think that’s obvious to everyone.

    But it’s his proclivity to get people to opt into something and then change the rules later which raises question marks over his leadership. As Facebook matures, their backers will have to think hard whether he’s the right person to take the company towards an IPO and beyond.

  • I have a different standpoint, Lets gather to approach the same court which has blocked it.

    Our developers so far have not gathered to take collective stance against it, for example my company is developing an application which uses Youtube API. What choices we have to meet our client commitment? I am sure there are many people working like us, in Facebook application development and using Youtube APIs.

    I suggest, we file a case in Lahore high court against this order and ask for exception to IT industry.

    Hassan, Please comment about this plan, I can put my full support in this cause and motivate other developers too. I know many FB developers who are extremely worried.

    Kaleem

  • @Kaleem: Are you having trouble connecting to the Facebook API using proxy services? Because we’re doing fine at our end. Maybe we’re missing something, or vice versa?

    You can get in touch with me at hassan.baig@alumni.duke.edu

  • One must remember that Facebook/Youtube etc are based on user powered content. The problem which led to this Facebook ban are not a problem with the policies of the Facebook company but a reflection of the thoughts of a certain user base that exists on Facebook. As a short term step one can look to diversify on Hi5 etc but what is to make sure that the same situation does not arise on Hi5/orkut etc? After all it is not the company responsible for creating such pages – its the people. Who is to stop such people from joining the other sites if that other site gets popular enough? We can diversify all we want but it will just take one person to create a page(s) on any of the social sites and land us into trouble.

    Moreover, diversification to sites that may be more popular in the future is a luxury that can only be afforded when you have substantial funding to go that route and stick it out for at least a year or two. For all practical purposes businesses(especially new ones) need to focus on the network which is the market leader (facebook in this case).

    The only solution that I can think of is to move the government/court to create a framework where parts of the website (that are deemed objectionable) are blocked while leaving the remaining site open. This to me is the only way we can keep ourselves in the competition without shooting ourselves in the foot!

  • Dear Muslims,

    Facebook has officially reopened in Pakistan. We will appreciate if you invite all your friends to join FaithfulBillion Network. Let us not forget that facebook did not take any action against our cry for deleting pages that were disrespecting our Beloved Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
    We don not need facebook or any other network that insults, disrespects and degrades our Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.).
    We will react to it as we strongly condemn, blasphemous caricature competition held at Facebook and that every other act, which can possibly become the cause of spewing hatred and inciting violence.
    FaithfulBillion.com an endeavor to show to the world that we muslims are merely not an above billion number of individuals, but we are part of such an undivided group, which exists with strongest element of commonality in their beliefs.
    We need your help to make this a success…
    Invite friends from your facebook and orkut account to join us…

    Regards,
    FaithfulBillion team

    http://www.faithfulbillion.com

    SIGNUP NOW!!! You will surely enjoy here.

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