81% of the world’s social networking population is found on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter combined. The quest (or more likely pressure) by these social networks to turn netizens’ content, provided freely on their sites, into money-making machines is turning them into ugly monsters. These are the worrying signs that are endemic in any oligopoly.
First, it was Facebook with its draconian API rules that have made it impossible for many 3rd party software developers to create independent social analytics tools. This behemoth gave access to only a handful of 3rd party social analytics tools such as Socialakers, Social Report, AllFacebookStats and EdgeRank Checker; all of which largely charge for their solutions. This policy is also applied to full branding of Facebook pages, which can only be done using paid apps by selected software developers. I guess billionaire Mark Zuckerberg had an eye on data monetisation right from the beginning, which is not surprising that he is the youngest $billionaire in the world.
Next is Youtube, owned by another behemoth, Google. Additional engagement features have been added to this video site lately, to improve its diversified content development capabilities and thus increase its stickiness.
At the same time, Youtube has been tightening the noose on third party developers too, threatening to sue those whose applications enable users to create a private copy of a public YouTube broadcast. To set an example, Google’s lawyers recently sent a cease-and-desist order to youtube-mp3.org, a free Youtbue video-to-MP3 conversion service developed by a 21-year old computer science German student Philip Matesanz. In a classical David-and-Golliath tug-of-war, Matesanz has taken the fight back to Google using the court of public opinion. He is currently rallying for support against Google’s legal challenge through an online petition, which has gathered 1,017,157 signatures as at 21 July 2012. He has also received massive positive online publicity.
See what happens when you view Youtube videos lately, you are bombarded with adverts that are impacting on the viewing experience. The one feature I find highly intrusive is that which forces you to watch an advert for at least 5 seconds before you can watch you preferred video. What is the likelihood that such content monetisation features are going to have a negative effect on Youtube’s netizens? Only time will tell.
Twitter has also stepped up its content monetisation efforts. While this site is lagging behind the 2 above in this race, it made its intentions clear late last year when it removed some of Facebook integration features on Tweetdeck, which it acquired in the first half of 2011. As recently as at the end of June 2012, an announcement was made that tweeps will not be able to post automatically on LinkedIn using this 140-character site anymore.
I shudder to think that Twitter’s generous API rules, which have made it popular among 3rd party developers thus far, are eventually going to be amended to restrict access. Just Google Twitter social analytics tools and see the wealth of search results you get. As noted by some social media analysts, Twitter wants to be more than just a portal used for posting content that will end up somewhere else on the Web. This observation must be making many 3rd party developers shake in their pants.
There are 2 growing similarities between Facebok, Youtbe and Twitter:
- Aggressive growth of social netizen numbers. Almost 1 in every 7 living beings is on Facebook, but this site is not resting on its laurels.
- Development of features that will encourage subscribed social netizens to spend the longest possible amount of time on the individual sites, and get them (netizens) to generously contribute content that becomes the property of and can be monetised by these sites.
It is clear that implications of the similarities above are grave for 3rd party developers. This does not help, given that these three sites dominate the social network market.