Monday, 17 September 2007

Mash Smash Facebook?

I stuck my neck out in July when I said that a serious threat to Facebook was imminent. And I was wrong on one count; the expected redesign of Google social network offering, Orkut, was distinctly underwhelming. But Yahoo! have now released a product which could give Facebook a run for it's money.

My first impressions of Yahoo! mash are pretty good. Here's my mash profile. As you may have seen from my twitter feed, the temptation is there to compare it with Facebook:
  • No advertising - yet
  • Ability to change your friend's profiles for them, including adding widgets. Opted out of letting anyone else do this yet. At least until Snowbadger has got bored and gone elsewhere...
  • The platform isn't open to developers yet, but this is coming in the "next few months"
  • Flickr widget looks good, of course - and only 218 people using this most popular widget. Early days indeed.
  • You can configure your own background, including full control over css - get ready for some MySpace-esque horrors...and some beauties, I suppose
  • There's some kind of tamagochi creature called "The Mash Pet" that I can feed, poke, etc. I just made him happy by feeding him four times in a row...joy....
JP Rangaswami often enthuses about Facebook and how it can be used in the workplace, while being quick to point out that it isn't Facebook per se which is of interest, but rather the potential of social networking sites. I anticipate a flurry of excitement about the prospect of being able to change someone else's profile! Need to give this some more thought myself.

So, the million dollar question: will it be popular? The market is far more savvy than it was six months ago. The kids who moved from MySpace to Facebook are unlikely to want to do it again. Lots of people seem to like Facebook, for better or for worse. I think mash has to improve, and it has the potential to do so. Who knows, maybe developers will come up with a killer gadget that uses the "modify friends profile" function.

In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the support given to developers tips the balance, as Facebook has proven to be pretty unreliable so far, well documented by my colleague Simon. You screw with the developer community at your peril.

It's invite only at the moment, let me know if you want one.

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