By woodjr on Jan 16, 2007
Could Facebook "grow up" to be a LinkedIn competitor? Alex Iskold thinks so. It's an interesting possibility, and reminds me of trends previously seen from the likes of Apple and Linux.
Basically, the idea is to reach your market before they are your market. Step one: build popularity with starving college students (where there is little or no profit). Step two: wait for those students to age into powerful and affluent corporate workers (providing significant profits, if they still think highly of your company/product). Apple did it consciously with discounts at college bookstores (encouraging more student ownership of Apple products) and to college IT purchasers (encouraging more Apple machines in computing labs and thus more student use of Apple products). Linux and other open source projects did it unconsciously by providing free software to technical students with an itch to tinker.
Per our formula, financial benefits came later. The students eventually graduated, and a portion of their increased income and corporate influence went to the benefit of vendors such as Apple and Red Hat. If Iskold's theory plays out, the same could soon happen for Facebook (given its enormous penetration into social networking for college students).
I think there is an obvious message here for Sun and anyone else looking to build up communities. A little foresight and patience goes a long way.