I Say: Facebook is not a mobile network.
You Say: WTF!!? Call yourself a serious blogger – Facebook has 200 million mobile users – roughly 40% of its users access using mobile devices. Also Facebook’s launch of Zero – Facebook’s lite text-centric version – proves it’s serious about the mobile space.
But I am making a different point. A mobile social network to me is different from mobile access of a conventional social network.
The userbase, features, functionalities, and the value proposition are distinct from conventional social networks.
Let’s take a step back and examine fundamental differences in mobile vs. PC/Laptop usage behaviours:
Mobiles work great for spur of the moment actions. It’s an always on, always with you device – the thought to action cycle is rapid and mostly uninterrupted, unless it’s your boss or significant other who is hollering at you!
No BIOS sequence, no Windows is updating Registry files… And shopping or making payments (soon in India) is a breeze compared to if you were doing it on a PC.
A voice call by definition is synchronous; Text messages get uncannily answered way faster than an e-mail or a comment on someone’s Wall. The only time PC/Laptop users are really synchronous is when they are on Chat.
4. Form Factor/UI
Long a bugbear of mobile devices for more complex and immersive experiences, this is now no longer the case. Especially, if you include an IPad or any tablet in your definition of a mobile device and it’s a whole new ball game!
Now let’s examine some applications and use cases of mobile networks:
- Chat: Before Facebook or Orkut came along wasn’t your default social network Chat – Gtalk/Yahoo/MSN? Those chats were synchronous. One of the most popular mobile networks isMig33 and QQ messenger trumps Facebook in China. Btw, Facebook chat sucks.
- Instant Polling: So it’s a Friday evening, a bunch of friends working in different places across town want to fix a watering hole to meet at. What are you going to do – voice conference people? Use Facebook’s polling option on your Wall and wait for people to indicate preference? Or push out a poll on everyone’s mobile screens and get instant feedback.
- Event-driven Social Networks: Following on from Pt.1 of the post, where I emphasized the fact that it’s not just friends = social networks, people also enter into certain temporary but high focus social networks.
Watch a match at a stadium with 50-60,000 people. Attend a business conference with 3- 4,000 delegates. Marketers looking to get people to participate and engage at events are going to want a real-time, always on social network and organizers of such event will value the deeper experience and engagement that participants will be involved in.
Augmented Reality gaming: Just as social games took off once they had the right platform with SNS, better mobile networks and mobile devices will power an augmented reality gaming revolution allowing people to combine real and virtual activities – at parks, zoos, festivals!
Mobile devices and the mobile internet will become the primary rather than secondary way for us to go social, and in a real time synchronous way – Facebook better watch out!
And now to the threat from Google!
Though momentum is currently with Zuckerberg and co., they need to carefully consider the following:
1. Google dwarfs Facebook in ad revenues. This is not Sex Therapy 101. Size Matters. Currently that is approx. $20 billion for Google vs. $2.5 billion for Facebook.
2. Google drives Android – the open source mobile OS. In the context of mobile devices and mobile networks that is a huge advantage. It’s also a revenue stream that will scale rapidly.
3. Google has a stake in Zynga. How many people would watch a TV channel if all their hit shows went off air. Facebook’s Achilles heel is that its top properties all come from the Zynga stable – a company where Google has made a hush-hush investment.
4. Facebook may be the social network but Google is my internet ecosystem. Browser – Chrome, Instant Messenger – Gtalk, Mobile Phone OS – Android ( and Chrome OS), Youtube, Blogger, Desktop Search etc. etc. – I just have more Google Friends in my computing ecosystem than Facebook.
[Image src: Benzinga.com]
What do you think? Will mobile networks be radically different from current ones? Does Google still have what it takes to to stave off the challenge of the brash new upstart? Or will the new David beat the new Goliath? Comments are open!
This is the second article in the series – Facebook is Passé – You can read the first part here