iLike’s CEO on the Wonders of Facebook Integration
iLike’s Facebook application continues to add hundreds of thousands of listeners every day. As I write it’s got just under 2.2 MILLION users just 2 weeks after its launch. In contrast, Last.fm’s official application has 62,000 and MOG’s even fewer. The other day I speculated on whether this had led to a decline in visits to iLike.com. Ali Partovi, iLike CEO, explained in the comments that:
a) given the explosive growth on Facebook, we intentionally disabled various aspects of iLike.com — including all email notifications, newsletters, etc — deliberately hoping to temporarily reduce our traffic to conserve server capacity for our Facebook app.
b) despite these efforts, the massive Facebook traffic caused daily outages all last week, not only on Facebook’s own servers but also on ours, taking out both the iLike FB app and iLike.com.
While I won’t be surprised to see a time when iLike.com users are “switching” in significant numbers to use iLike on Facebook, I don’t think that’s happening yet.
As of now, the users of iLike.com still greatly outnumber the users of iLike on Facebook (perhaps not for long!). Also, we have not yet announced our Facebook app to the iLike mailing list, nor have we interlinked the two databases — so users on iLike.com can’t (yet) easily switch their accounts over to Facebook. As these things change over the coming weeks, it will be interesting to watch — indeed a lot of iLike.com users might switch permanently to using iLike on Facebook instead!
My curiosity was piqued by this last sentence, and especially it’s enthusaistic tone, as though people leaving iLike.com for iLike-the-Facebook-application might be a GOOD thing. So I followed up on that, and here’s our conversation:
Nancy: It sounds from your comment like iLike would be quite content to have its users using the site from within Facebook vs going to iLike.com? Is that right? And what are the implications of that for how sites like iLike operate in the future?
Ali: Well, we know that iLike’s functionality, no matter how good on its own, can be even better when deeply integrated in to the Facebook platform. Although we’ve barely started the migration of functions from iLike.com to Facebook, already we can tell that iLike on FB will be *better* for the consumer than iLike.com on its own.
Having accepted that, the rest writes itself. There’s no way we’d try to fight an uphill battle against what’s best for the consumer. And fortunately, in contrast to the precariously-balanced “Myspace widget ecosystem,” making $ on the FB platform is no harder than making $ on our own site. In fact, the business model doesn’t change at all — the only difference is that it will take more effort to build and maintain multiple versions of our site (especially if we need to support more than one such platform, if FB’s competitors create equivalent platforms of their own).
N: In what ways do you think iLike on FB is “better for the consumer?” How is its functionality improved through FB integration?
A: The #1 way people discover music is through friends, and iLike’s mission is to facilitate that. Facebook enhances this in two key ways: 1) instant personalization. On our dot-com site, each new user needs to tell us their music tastes, invite their friends, and get those friends to tell us their tastes. Whereas on our Facebook site, we already know your tastes, your friends, and their tastes, so we can offer you a personalized experience automatically. 2) Not another social network. People don’t wanna go somewhere separate just for music — they want music to enhance their existing online social life. For example: where would you rather see a notification that your buddies are going to see Snow Patrol: on a separate music website, or in the Facebook news feed that you’re already checking five times a day?
N: As I understand it, right now iLike Facebook users are not linked to iLike.com users, so people might be running 2 accounts with you. Is that right? And if it is, will the accounts eventually be linked?
A: That’s correct — people’s existing accounts on iLike.com are not (yet) linked to their accounts on Facebook. This is an interim situation that we’ll hopefully resolve in a few weeks. We had only a few weeks to build iLike on Facebook so we postponed some of the bigger tasks… what you see today is just the beginning!
N: I’ve heard that the main source of iLike revenue is through Ticketmaster. Is that accurate (and hence why it doesn’t matter where on the web iLike users are using iLike)?
A: As an ad-supported site, we can make as much money on our Facebook app as on our own dot-com site — perhaps even more! Regardless of which site you visit, we can learn your tastes, recommend new music or concerts to you, provide links for you to buy, collect affiliate fees, and show you ads along the way. In fact, on our Facebook app, we know more about you, so we should be able to make more money by showing you more relevant ads.
N: You’re suggesting you see iLike eventually operating through multiple sites, not just Facebook. Are there any plans in the works to launch applications for other platforms?
A: There’s no other platform out there (yet) that remotely approaches what Facebook offers today. Will Facebook’s competitors successfully launch something competitive? That’s the Web2.0 question of the year. Strategically, I don’t love being dependent on a single platform; but I’m also not sure the market has room for another. There’s an enormous network effect that favors everything on the same platform.
N: It seems that particularly in the last few months we’re seeing increasing trending toward the fusion of what used to be multiple sites — startpages, widgets, Facebook applications. Do you have any general thoughts or insights on the opportunities and challenges of this trend?
A: I see it as not just a trend, but an epic Darwinian clash between platforms. Over ten years we’ve seen the gradual evolution of a “widget syndication” model, where companies push features out into embeddable snippets. Against that gradual trend, the Facebook platform is a massive evolutionary leap: rather than extending my website through widgets, I can now build an entirely new, more powerful site from scratch with the awesome building blocks that Facebook offers. Which approach is better? Only time will tell, but my prediction is that those who embrace Facebook’s platform will beat those who don’t. I don’t see Facebook’s Platform as part of a trend in the evolution of widgets, except in the sense that the emergence of mammals was part of a trend in the evolution of giant reptiles.
N: Finally, are there any other things you think I (and Online Fandom readers) ought to know about iLike that I haven’t asked about?
N: It’s amazing that our Facebook app has gone from zero to 2 million users in less than two weeks… I don’t know of any new technology in history growing that fast. And we’ve only just begun :)