Live Notes from Comparing Social Platforms: “Build, Buy, or Borrow?” at GSP East

We’re here at the 1:10pm session and this panel is covering platform options. The panel:

  • Oren Michels, CEO of Mashery
  • Jessica Alter, Director of Platform and Business Development at Bebo
  • Daniel Burton, Senior Vice President, Global Public Policy for Salesforce.com
  • David Jones, VP, Global Marketing at Friendster

Oren: What are you doing with your platform? What makes it a little different? Whats new with the platform since the last GSP in San Diego?

David: We are the seventh largest website of any kind in the world. We are the third largest social network in terms of traffic. We are the number ones in terms of engagement relative to other social networks. 38% of the entire internet population is in Asia and Friendster is the largest social network in that region. We have 350 applications live on the platform today with 1000 currently under development. The revenue model is completely open on our platform. In the last few months we’ve added some viral channels for every app and every developer.

Jessica: We are a social network focused on community, entertainment, and communication combined together. Our users are really engaged in what they’re doing on our site and that is something we are very focused on continuing to grow. Thus far we have over 4,000 applications on our platform. We currently support the Facebook APIs but we do plan to support Open Social in the future. We built a platform because we realize that outside developers could bring to our site many things that we simply couldn’t offer to our users ourselves. After photos, apps are the most popular thing on the site.

Dan: Last fall we announced our platform Force.com. It is the first platform as a service for business. It is a system of tools and application services that allow both developers and corporate IT departments to developer applications and have them run on the Salesforce infrastructure. It is a very powerful environment not only to developer your applications but also to run your applications. The difference between our business platform and the social platforms is the level of security requirements that enterprises really depend on. We created the eco-system with all of the security functionality built in so that developers can put their applications on our platform and have access to an entire universe of users for free.

Oren: It sounds like the monetizing element is baked into the force.com environment. For Bebo and Friendster, are people building businesses on your platform?

David: We are many seeing many developers generating healthy revenue through CPA.

Jessica: Yes, there are a lot of developers making money. Our approach is how can “we” make money, we including both the developers and Bebo itself. We are looking at our rich data and how can we help use the data we have to help developers monetize. We want to offer increased ad relevance for the entire ecosystem. We think that there needs to be some way to share the data we have so that the CPMs developers are seeing are much higher than the .05 or .10 cent range.

Oren: In terms of access to profile info, what are the trends in regards of the balance between privacy and personal data and allowing the developer to take advantage of the rich data that is being collected?

Dan: Salesforce and Force.com is a little different in that regard. We do not see nor collect data. On Salesforce you can buy directly from the developer, so we are really outside of that ad based model. We should all be watching a lot on the public policy side that may alter the behavioral ad targeting environment.

Jessica: This probably is the most delicate balance we have to deal with given the huge opportunity and huge risk. It is a constant conversation that we have internally in the company. We think there are ways to achieve a balance that doesn’t compromise users.

David: First off, there are tons of granular privacy settings on Friendster. In terms of the APIs and the developer program, a developer can only access certain private information once the user actively consents. We’ve put in place controls to keep a tight handle on this issue so that users know whats going on while developers can still build worthwhile applications on the platform.

Jessica: The question we’ve found when talking about lending this information to developers or any third party is do users understand what they’re doing when they give access to their data? The hardest part is educating the users to understand the significance of their actions.

Oren: People definitely don’t know. Inevitably, the bad news is going to happen and policy will quickly enter into the equation. What do you see as the next big thing over the next six months as the era of throwing sheep passes?

David: Friendster is a founding member of Opensocial and we will be deploying the spec in coming months. We are looking for new, compelling, innovative apps. We haven’t seen as many as we would have expected. We are looking forward to some truly next generation apps to make life easier for our users.

Jessica: I’m for the kind of apps that my users are going to use. To me, thats about engagement. What I think is quality is not what my average 21 year old user thinks is quality. We want things that will be really engaging. In the next few weeks we will be coming out with some new engagement metrics and rewarding based on those. We definitely hope to innovate on the monetization side as well.

Dan: We think this is a terribly exciting time considering all of these new platforms. This is the era of “let a thousands flowers bloom.” We really think that what we’re moving towards is the end of software, and you’ve seen that with applications and you’re seeing platforms take that to the next level. The consumer web is setting the pace that the business web tries to interpret and implement in the business environment. The dynamic combination of these two worlds will lend a tremendous amount of excitement to both the business and consumer side.

Q: For salesforce, for developers how much help do you offer to meet the security requirements?

Dan: Not only do you as a developer code in salesforce, but we do also have a security audit. Our team works with developers to make sure that they are following proper security procedures. All of those security issues are automatically handled by the run time environment.

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