Facebook power users 'have gone to Google+ and Twitter'
Facebook’s biggest threat is that its ‘power users’ have gone to Twitter or Google+, one of its founding investors and former president has said.
Sean Parker, a co-founder of original music file-sharing service Napster and a prominent Facebook shareholder, as well as, one time president of the site, has gone on the record saying that the social network’s biggest problem is not privacy – it’s the fact that some of its heaviest users have defected to other services because of a lack of decent set of controls.
Speaking at the annual Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Parker said: “The strategic threat to Facebook is that power users have gone to Twitter or to Google+.”
The technology entrepreneur, who is also now a Spotify investor, defined power users as those who contribute “tones of content to Facebook which is being consumed by everyone else” and called them “important networkers’ who prop the social network up. It his belief that some of these users have left Facebook for Twitter and Google+ because they have a lack of good controls over the information they see and who they share it with.
“I am trying to lean in the direction of giving these users more tools but not privacy tools,” Parker explained.
“I don’t think privacy is an issue. That may be controversial but I don’t think that’s Facebook’s biggest problem. I think Facebook’s biggest problem is the glut of information that Facebook’s power users are overwhelmed with… [Facebook] needs to address the need of power users to have more controls.
"They want to control what information they are seeing by basically organising their friends – and that should happen organically – you shouldn’t never have to go to some separate place to do so.”
He said Facebook’s recently released product, ‘smart lists’ – which helps people arrange their friends into different social groups with greater ease, was a “step in the right direction” and the first time “Facebook users have been given some degree of control over how to filter their experience” on the site.
“The next step is, once you have your friend network organised into some sensible lists...you can start selectively broadcasting to those lists,” Parker revealed.
Parker was quizzed on how Google+ could ever steal Facebook’s crown and become the social network of choice. He said that it would be tough as it is difficult to compete with “network effects” – as in getting all of a person’s friends, and their friends of friends onto a new network.
However, he conceded that obviously it could happen as the world saw with MySpace and Facebook. But in order for Google+ to become more popular than Facebook Parker said: “Facebook would have to screw up royally and Google would have to do something really smart.”
He added: “It can happen – it obviously happened with people switching from MySpace to Facebook - but it requires systematic consistent product execution over a long period of time; but it also requires the systematic failure on the part of the incumbent network.”
The investor, who was played by Justin Timberlake in the recent film The Social Network, was also asked about whether people were correct to be worried about how much information Facebook had stored about each of it 800 million users, and whether the social network should be viewed as “creepy” for having too much power.
He guardedly said that his role as a shareholder would not allow him to answer the question “satisfactorily”.
However, he quipped: “Look, I mean there’s good creepy and there’s bad creepy. And today’s creepy is tomorrow’s necessity.”
Parker, who is working on his own new start up called ‘Airtime’ - believed to be attempting to disrupt current TV on demand services, also defended Spotify’s recent tethering to Facebook.
“It gives Spotify access to Facebook’s roughly 800 million users and it enables music to go massively viral,” he explained.
He said the Swedish music service, which recently launched in America, was doing a good job in trying to finish what Parker had started with Napster: the attempt to create a frictionless social music sharing service, not controlled by the traditional gatekeepers of the music industry.