The race to build a “Platform within the Platform” is on
On Friday morning, RockYou announced an API for its SuperWall application (which currently has about 3.2 million installations), pitching it to developers as a new way to distribute content and drive application installs. It works by enabling you to put a “Share with Friends” button anywhere on Facebook or the web that will allow users that have SuperWall installed to share your content on it. The sharer would not need to have your application installed to spread your content. Props to the RockYou team for being one of the first out with an application API!
Facebook application APIs signal the beginning of the second movement of the Platform “Big Bang,” which I think you could think of as the “Platform within the Platform” rush. Applications with millions of users will soon enable APIs that offer other developers the opportunities to extend their applications and gain distribution in an attempt to become a kind of “platform” themselves.
As a result, over the coming months we will likely see the formation of layers or even webs of “platform-like” applications within Facebook. This will quickly create a rather complex application dependency graph and a rather complex ecosystem of application-application and application-user relationships.
No longer merely “applications,” software like SuperWall will share some of the risks and value of platformhood with Facebook. Just as Facebook is constantly evolving its API, has developed a terms of service for its API, and is cultivating trust with a developer community, so too must “platform application” companies like RockYou. At the same time, these “platform applications” will always remain subject to the terms and rules of the Facebook platform itself.
I am curious to see if any “platform application” companies beat Facebook to the punch on some obviously lacking Platform services… Will Facebook ever prohibit certain “platform-like” application features as part of the Platform TOS? I don’t believe so. Facebook still has a lot to gain from developers who not only build new applications, but also extend the Platform itself.