Too Thin

No, this isn’t a screed about weight loss.  Nor is it a rant about underfed models and bad body images.  It’s about Facebook and how it raises a great business point for all of us.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might have read about Facebook’s recent Rooms app.  It’s an app that attempts to transfer the utility of message boards to the mobile world.  Everything old is new again, I guess. As Mashable reported:

The app allows people to create a “room” on any topic. The room can then be customized with colors, icons and photos — even the Like button can be changed. Text, photos and videos can be posted to a room’s feed, creating an ongoing multimedia conversation.

Not exactly an original concept.  In fact, FriendFeed did something similar several years ago with the same name.  What’s different is that the app permits anonymity, something heretofore verboten on Facebook.  Frankly, it’s not all that difficult to create a fake identity but that’s a different discussion.

Rooms come on the heels of Paper, Poke, and Slingshot.  The former is/was a newsreader; the latter two are Snapchat clones.  None of the three are successful, at least not in the context of a user base of over a billion.  Messenger, another app, is more so but only because the messaging functionality was deleted from the Facebook app proper so it’s sort of a forced use case.  That said, I’ve not installed it since it’s way too intrusive in terms of the data it captures (mostly without the user knowing it’s doing so).  The app has one star in the App Store – not exactly a home run.

The business point is this. Facebook seems to be attempting to be all things to all people.  Everything that becomes popular – in this latest case anonymous sharing apps such as Yik Yak and Whisper – prompt Facebook to attempt to release something that keeps users in the Facebook ecosystem.  Obviously the need to serve ads to the user bases of those apps drives some of this.  When they can’t manage to build it, they buy, as in the case of WhatsApp.

I’m not a fan of being all things to all people.  I think doing a limited number of things well is a better path.  Facebook might be better served to negotiate ad serving deals (and maybe they’ve tried) and partnerships than to flail about creating crappy apps.  A business can spread the product mix too thinly, diluting what made it successful and alienating the user base when that dilution affects the core products (Messenger, for example).


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