Facebook: Social Copycat Extraordinaire? 6


Earlier this week, we heard from Bloomberg Businessweek that Facebook would be offering a Groupon-inspired discount deal service. Given its potential customer base of over 500 million users, the social networking site definitely has a good starting foundation as it hopes to take advantage of the bourgeoning online-deal market.

Anyone else not surprised? Don’t get me wrong: Facebook is awesome and all, but once again, it’s taking a pre-existing idea from another social networking platform and incorporating it into its own one-stop social metropolis. Facebook has been a copycat from Day 1.  Even prior to its conception, we had MySpace, FriendFeed, and several other social networking platforms that eventually floundered and or just never took off.

So what made Facebook succeed where others had failed? In short, exclusivity. Whereas MySpace was a very public platform where any creep could try to add you as a friend (Remember that creeper who was at least twice your age, lived across the country and was always commenting on your pictures for no good reason? Of course you do.), Facebook was initially a private club for college students.  Only later, when it had established itself above the common man’s social networking sites, did it eventually open its doors to everyone.

Throughout Facebook’s young life, it has continued to adopt popular online tools in an effort to provide its user base with the be-all, end-all source for online interaction: in May 2007, the Marketplace launched, a lá Craigslist.  In April 2009, the Facebook news feed underwent a drastic makeover that resulted in a suspicious resemblance to Twitter. In August 2010, Places kicked off, but while FourSquare doesn’t have nearly as many users as Facebook, it still seems to enjoy a higher volume of check-ins – for now, anyway. Later that year, we talked about the Facebook Deals introduction (and Foursquare still seems to be doing just fine).

Over the last six years, this social networking monolith has tried function as our online interactive Swiss army knife. Sometimes its efforts are impressive, and other times less remarkable – I actually had to see if Facebook Marketplace was still active when writing this post. While it is an enormous platform, I personally think that even the likes of Facebook won’t be able to do it all while holding everyone’s interest.

At the very least, imitation is the best form of flattery though, right?  What do you think of Facebook holding the crosshairs over Groupon, or any of its other social adoptions?


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