I got an e-mail from a recruiter at Bebo looking to hire me into the same position I had at Tagged. This caught my eye:
Bebo (www.bebo.com), Located in San Francisco; with over 40 million registered members viewing billions of pages monthly, it is the largest social networking site in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, and the third largest behind MySpace and Facebook in the US. Officially launched in July 2005, received the 2006 Webby Award People’s Vote as the best social networking site in the world.
Our people can boast demonstrated records of success in viral online marketing and social media, having come to us from such companies as Google, Ringo, Tickle, BirthdayAlarm, Friendster, Organic, Yahoo, and MTV.
From its $15M initial round of funding back in early 2006 (from Benchmark Capital) Bebo has enjoyed positive cash flow since day one.
Our recent merger with AOL will bring tremendous opportunity by combining Bebo’s fast growing user base with the social graph of AIM and other assets.
Third place in the U.S.—really?
Facebook US rank: 3
MySpace US rank: 5
Tagged US rank: 108
Hi5 US rank: 288
Bebo US rank: 394
Friendster US rank: 534
Hmm, Tagged passed Bebo just after they got bought out by AOL for $850 million (and while I was working there) and Friendster right before I left. Given that Friendster passed on hiring me twice—that’s the sweet taste of satisfaction! 😀
Depending on the metric, you might make a case for it being #4, but to displace Tagged? Really? Not to mention, completely pissing on the hard work I did there. 😉 Besides this slight isn’t exactly going to make me jump ship from my new job back to my old one—just with a different color scheme.
I think it’s instructive how companies like Slide and RockYou could have been so slow to capitalize on game designs that date back to 1980’s bulletin board systems. Perhaps they’ll study that in b-school. With 20-20 hindsight, this model does complete sense—interaction and bandwidth limitations are pretty much the same relative to the existing technology in each time period are strikingly similar in both BBSs and social networks. And just to further emphasize that it was not first mover that defined success, but rather failure to capitalize, I’ll remind the audience that neither FarmVille nor Mafia Wars were original ideas on Facebook—both were swiped from competitor products.
I will give Zynga (and the others) this. They have a far more mature understanding of social virality than the days of Plaxo, Tagged, or even RockYou/Slide. Earlier social gaming (like the first such app, Zombies) used traditional models based on optimizing signups and invites, but the Zynga model is optimizing views and clicks and they’re doing a good job. Remember, FarmVille only launched in June and now is all over the Times.
This is Mafia Wars, Zynga’s copy of Mob Wars. Note the use of various promotions to cater to instincts of people to bring their eyeballs here daily — gambling with daily chance, limited time offers and jobs, cross selling their other applications like Farmville, etc.On this screenshot showing a fold and a half of content, you only see one “social” touch point (at the bottom). That’s because the social aspect is only used like e-mail for messaging—and even then, only for notifications because real interaction like in Diplomacy or Chess would need much more brainpower than simply clicking.
Clicks are optimized here; social interaction is minimal here.
Trust me, they make a lot of money off of this.
Before any of us start rationalizing, part of learning is admitting when someone does it better than you. Hats off to Zynga.