Facebook - do we need to worry?

image Facebook, which continues to amaze with its impressive growth in users, is getting a bit of a bad boy reputation.

First there was the snafu with Beacon. Beacon is an ad serving application that tracks purchases made by Facebook users on partner sites (this data is sent back to Facebook from the partner sites such as Sony Online, Zappos and 44 other sites). If you bought a ring for your wife on Overstock.com, it would show up in your profile on Facebook , and be visible to all your friends (this happened to an FB user). The privacy concerns had users in an uproar, particularly as Facebook elected to make the Beacon notifications opt-out, rather than opt-in.

Facebook has since changed the system so that users now need to give permission for their purchases to be visible to their friends. And Mark Zukerberg, CEO of Facebook, has apologized on his blog.

While for now, the controversy seems to have blown over for Facebook, it still leaves the one big question. Should merchants even be supplying private information regarding their customers purchases to third parties - Facebook or anyone else? It seems to me that the companies providing the data should be shouldering a whole lot more of the blame than Facebook. For now, the Beacon partner sites are still passing the data back to Facebook. Facebook’s assertion that they will delete the data unless a user chooses to make the information public, does not give a very warm and fuzzy feeling.

image Recently, Facebook has also gotten in hot water for luring away employees at other companies. The company is growing with a vengeance and plans to double its battalion of 700 employees by next year. Even in Silicon Valley, it is no mean feat to find that many techhies in such short order. Google has felt the pinch of losing a few key workers. And then one employee left Techcrunch, causing them to get on the war path with Facebook (there is a funny post Hey Facebook, WTF? Stay Away From TechCrunchers from Michael Arrington regarding one of his recent hires, Ben Meyers, jumping ship for Facebook stock options).

But like they say, fame is a short hop away from notoriety. Facebook seems to be benefiting from continuously being in the buzz, both good and bad, given the astronomical valuations the company seems to be commanding these days!



Measuring Facebook penetration: every 5th Canadian is on Facebook!

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This is amazing! I just came across a post at Robwebb2k where he used Facebook’s Flyer Pro advertising platform (now Facebook Ads) to find some interesting statistics about Facebook’s reach.

He ran some numbers to see which countries were most saturated with Facebook’s +48M users. The winners:

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The penetration in Canada has reached an absolutely unbelievable 22%. Every 5th Canadian is on Facebook and every 10th person in UK is a Facebook user.

The European numbers look very healthy too, Norway with 19%, UK with 11% and Sweden with 10%.

If you further modify the figures by noting that the computer penetration in Canada is about 70%, then the Facebook penetration numbers are even more staggering. It means that in Canada, every third person who has a computer is a member of Facebook. Similarly, for India the above table shows a dismal 0.02%, but if you modify it by noting that the internet-connected computer penetration in India is about 9M subscribers, then the participation rate is about 3%, which is very respectable for such a large country. (In fact, I would go even further and argue that the applications like Facebook are Broadband applications and one should really compare the numbers with the broadband penetration.)

OK, see you on Facebook.

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Yahoo gets Kickstart ‘ed

With Microsoft and Google battling it out over Facebook and other fronts, Yahoo is not exactly standing still. The latest of Yahoo’s portfolio of Brickhouse properties, Kickstart was launched earlier this month.

Kickstart is positioned in the vaccuum that has long since existed in between the spaces occupied by Facebook and LinkedIn. It is a social network that university students can use as they make their first forays into the job world. It allows schools to link their student population with alumni and fraternities, to foster sharing of job leads.

A targeted professional social network like Kickstart should become very popular. While Facebook and Myspace cater to the student demographic, the sites are rarely used for serious job related networking. On the other hand, LinkedIn provides a way of setting up professional networks, but supplies few tools if any, to foster communications within the network other than through the some what cumbersome "Ask your network a question" facility, and to some extent through the feature of providing a recommendation to someone you have worked with.

Kickstart comes out of Yahoo’s Venture fund Brickhouse which is built around the idea of quickly percolating ideas developed within Yahoo. This month, two of the companies, Kickstart and Zync - an application that allows watching of YouTube videos on Yahoo IM - have been launched.

According to Salim Ismail, head of Brickhouse, the fund sees about 8-10 ideas every month, and selects two for funding and fast tracking into the marketplace.



Mochi Ads ; In Game Advertising ripe for casual games

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We have talked about the growth of the casual games. It is a huge market, about $1B worth. I even know somebody who won $1M playing “casual game” and as casual gaming grows the demand for services that monetize these game play is going to increase.

I remember playing the smash hit Desktop Tower Defense game when it had just released a new version and went from a free to sponsored game play model. At that time, the folks at the Hand drawn games, the makers of Desktop Tower Defense, had overdone the sponsorship part, the pieces in the game were sponsored and impacted the enjoyment of game play. The Desktop Tower Defense team is using the Mochiads now. Mochiads suggests showing ads at natural break points in the game and not have the ads take over the games, which is the right way to go.

Last August, Accel Partners, the venture firm that funded Facebook, led the investment in this first round for Mochi Media.

Mochi Media launched MochiAds for casual games and is out of private beta now. It allows casual video game developers to embed ads within their video-games and includes analytics for measuring how many ad views they are getting and how much money the ads are bringing in.

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In the example they have, the cpm rates are listed at $0.28-$0.43. For casual gaming that sounds about right; the sites charge anywhere from $.75 to $2.00 CPM.

Eye Blaster (eb.in-games) is another player in the market. They have relationship with RealNetwork and several other casual game sites.

In-game advertising, either being delivered to hard core gamers, or during real game plays (which generated $77M in 2006), or to the casual gamer, has great growth potential and the interesting thing is that these ads are immune to Tivo-killing, or Adblaster or selective content removal tools which makes them even more attractive to the advertisers.

Tags: Mochiads, Eyeblaster, in-game ads

 



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