Facebook's Developer conference, F8, takes place today in San Francisco. And while I won't be attending, I'll be watching it streaming live on Facebook with thousands of others.
I have to admit, a year ago I was weary of Facebook. Between running a company and raising two small kids I can barely keep up with my good friends, let alone the people I went to kindergarten with. As a user I was skeptical of the purpose beyond wasting time, and thought it ultimately caused the degradation of "real" relationships. As a game developer, I saw it as a fool's paradise with a number of first movers abandoning all and jumping in to capitalize on the web's latest craze through scams, cheesy lead gen and obfuscation. Then something dramatic happened... I launched a game on Facebook.
How did a Facebook skeptic like me become a believer? Numbers. It's hard to ignore 400 million users (50% active), more than 5 billion pieces of content shared each week and games that have turned into goldmines.
Our game Mahjongg Dimensions launched on Facebook in January 2010, currently has 1.3 million monthly active users (MAU) and is adding 30 thousand new players per day. This may sound like a pittance compared to games like Farmville (and it is) but it's still dramatic growth. To compare, a game website I've had online for seven years, and put an equally small amount of marketing dollars behind, has 400,000 unique visitors per month. So with Facebook, one game was able to achieve in two months what a website with 100 games couldn't do in seven years. A stat like that makes it easy for anyone to become a believer.
Granted not all games and all apps will succeed on Facebook, as evidenced by the thousands that languor with 500 MAU or less. But for those who take the time to create something unique, fun, and viral there is no better platform to be a part of right now. Marketers who until now have only dipped their toes in the water are (rightly) jumping in head first.
New initiatives which are expected to be released and more widely pushed at today's conference -- including the further distribution of Facebook's currency, credits, as well as the Open Graph API -- will only serve to make Facebook more powerful and extend its reach even more aggressively outside of Facebook.com. Something which should make brand managers ecstatic. If the new API's deliver, it makes their job even easier by allowing them to manage one website which auto-updates Facebook, rather than managing a website and Facebook fan page.
While I still fear that Facebook will ultimately lead to the erosion of personal interaction, there's no sign of it slowing down or going away. For now I'm drinking Zuckerberg's Kool-Aid.
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