Thoughts on Facebook Distribution

A few days ago, Facebook announced a feature where a FB user can follow someone’s actions in a 3rd party app. Those actions then show up in that FB user’s feed. For example, if I follow someone on Socialcam, those person’s actions show up in my FB feed.

It effectively allows a FB user to increase the “signal” in their feed. This addresses the signal-to-noise ratio problem that occurs in many feeds by increasing the “signal.” (A lot of companies try to address this by “curating”, or reducing the noise). Open Graph let anyone share what they’re doing on the web to their FB friends, and this creates more diversity (and volume) into one’s feed. This “follow” feature is another dial to tweak in tailoring one’s feed.

We thought this was pretty significant. It complements Open Graph, which we think is one of the strongest distribution channels since Facebook launched its platform in 2007. Below is a letter drafted by Topher Conway that we recently sent to our investors describing the phenomenon. (Many of our investors are individuals aren’t tech insiders so the letter is more topical in nature.) It conveys our excitement for these types of developments and how they can be a boon for young companies.

One of the most significant developments we’ve seen recently is Facebook’s Open Graph. Through Open Graph, partners can share user’s actions back to a user’s Facebook network through Facebook’s other features (i.e.,Timeline, NewsFeed and Ticker). This light-weight, passive sharing mechanism has created one of the most powerful distribution channels ever. Software developers can instantly access 900M+ users, efficiently and effectively.

This means that companies can achieve unprecedented levels of growth and engaged users. Companies like SocialCam, Fab, and Airtime, are driving rapid growth and engagement to their applications. The key for these companies is to create durable, long-term users and customers from this growth. History has shown that early growth from platform changes doesn’t always lead to long-term success. Growth can become a commodity for developers, and the very best companies and founders need to create engaging and memorable experiences for their users.

One of the largest opportunities we see with Open Graph is around the new area of “social commerce.” Word-of-mouth marketing is the most powerful distribution channel for commerce. A friend’s recommendation of a particular product or piece of content continues to be the most effective endorsement. Passive sharing and the new “verb+noun” combinations in the OpenGraph (described below) drive better discovery of more products/content.

Open Graph gives developers the tools to create their own verb+noun combinations (instead of the traditional ‘Like’). These combinations (“Watch”, “Listen”, “Read”) create new kinds of apps that allow users to passively give recommendations/endorsements to their friends across many verticals (commerce, music, video, news, books). This new format also provides more structure and context, possibly providing the building blocks for the semantic web, something no other company has built. We ultimately believe this will be of tremendous value not only to Facebook, but the entire developer ecosystem.

While Open Graph is still in the early days of development and Facebook continues to fine tune the platform, we are very bullish on the opportunities for developers to create new and powerful apps that reach millions of users.