More Debate About Facebook's Future
A panel of local investors and entrepreneurs held a panel discussion this morning in Tysons Corner to discuss Web 2.0 trends. The conversation addressed questions like "how long will Google's dominance last?" to "what will be the next Google?"
But, in my view, the most interesting part of the event focused on another company: Facebook, who's name is becoming almost (but not quite) as ubiquitous as Google's.
Members of the panel went back and forth on the sustainable value of the social network--and whether it has received too much attention over the past year or so. Don Rainey, an investor with Grotech Ventures, said he thinks Facebook applications are over-hyped. Laurence Hooper, co-founder and CEO of Loladex, a recently launched Facebook application that helps people find local businesses, was quick to disagree. In fact, he thinks the very idea that Facebook fatigue is setting in is over-hyped. Scott Frederick, an investor with Valhalla Partners, said he thinks Facebook itself may not be able to live up to the valuation it received after Microsoft's investment and that it could end up hurting developers wanting to work with Facebook.
Frederick also wondered if Facebook has become a commodity. He drew a parallel to Skype's free Internet-based phone calls. People find the service useful, but Skype's parent company, Ebay, has had a hard time making it profitable. "Microsoft paid such a high value" for a small stake in the company..."that it might not play out as planned," he said.
Hooper pointed out the increasing influence of social networks on the Web, but added that Facebook "is certainly at a point where it needs to prove itself," Hooper said.
Jay Rappaport, president and COO of Clearspring, the widget-making company, said he thinks Google's OpenSocial initiative has received more buzz than it's worth. He said he likes the goal behind the alliance of social networks, but "standardization will take time." (Facebook is not taking part in the OpenSocial movement).
The moderator of the panel, Paul Sherman of Potomac Tech Wire, asked the audience about their social network preferences. About 75 percent of the audience--all professionals-- indicated they are a member of LinkedIn, while about 50 percent raised their hands for Facebook and less than 25 percent indicated they belong to MySpace.
Then a more meaningful question was asked: How many people log onto LinkedIn everyday? Only a dozen or so hands went up.
April 16, 2008; 12:43 PM ET
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