Option F and the Facebook 500,000

Around this time last year Josh Kopelman came up with the idea of the Techcrunch chasm. The root idea is/was that too many companies were targeting the then-53,651 readers of Mike A’s popular Techcrunch blog. A good review in Techcrunch, as Josh pointed out, gets you 5-25k beta users, and then you’re stuck.

I’m wondering if something similar isn’t happening in Facebook. I keep hearing about companies that are exercising “Option F” and launching a Facebook version of their app, only to suddenly have 500,000 users. But for how long? I’m betting, pace the Techcrunch chasm, that those people are an ephemeral crew, and that they try pretty much anything, and then drop it again.

I see that behavior quite clearly in my Facebook news feed. People all add one app; people all drop that app. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This is not a mainstream audience, nor does it seem to have much permanence. It’s just tire-kickers and try-ers.

Don’t get me wrong. Facebook is an awesome platform. But don’t get overly excited about getting even a a hundred thousand people to briefly try out a Facebook applet. With 27-million users you can get a decent-sized number of people to try pretty much anything. Whether any of that Facebook 500,000 will stick is another question.


  1. FB will just identify those winning widgets and as per its TOS copy and displace them. In effect, the opening of its platform is a great way to offload its R&D budget.

  2. Hey Brian,
    I highly doubt that Facebook will just offload successful Facebook applications. That would prevent future businesses from launching Facebook apps.
    Best Regards,

  3. Just like Microsoft displaced incumbent applications for word processing, presentation, email, etc. etc.
    Typical platform play – win the platform, have developers do your R&D, then cherry-pick the apps that you want to own. Has always worked. Cisco, Intel, EMC all have done the same thing.

  4. Nothing wrong with that. One should only have the apps that are truly useful to him.

  5. scorecard says:

    You are wrong on both counts. The attrition of FB apps is negligible compared to many other web products. Moreover, it is not a trivial task to get 500k users–only approximately 25 apps have been able to generate that much traction.

  6. A flaw in your logic might be the idea that those showing up in your newsfeed are representative of the Facebook crowd. Based on my observations, 500k would be an impressive feat and definitely say something about the utility of the app. On the flip side, I’ve seen apps that claim or appear to have that high a number of users or more outside of Facebook, but can barely generate more than five digits within. Those are the ones that have to go back to the drawing board.

  7. i dunno… 500K users is 500K users, not matter how you count ’em. if they’re tirekicking your app, that’s ok as long as they try it. if they dump it, then your app obviously sucked wind.
    point being, even if it’s only 50K not 500K users, if you can get them to try out your app FOR FREE that ain’t such a bad deal. (ok so not completely free, you still have to build the app, but…)
    where else can you get access to so many users for next to nothing? (widgets on myspace, perhaps. and an even bigger thumb to be under 😉

  8. Hey Paul,
    I have not read the other comments so excuse me if this has already been said, but here’s my take…in Toronto FaceBook is going crazy – and it’s not just the techies loving it or adding apps. In this case I might suggest your sample (i.e. your friends) might be skewed towards techies. In my case, most of my friends are old high school friends etc and they are the ones I see playing with the apps. In fact I’d say I notice it more because I am surprised by their behavior.
    In a nutshell – and at least in Toronto – FaceBook in my estimation has crossed techie chasm.
    – Mike

  9. Thanks for the reality check now immediately back to thinking about scaling, scaling, scaling… ((From a developer’s stand point F8 is unbelievable. Initially we wanted to use it just to test our product but each day it becomes more apparent that you could actually thrive inside FB. That is if you are a hit that can manage the unprecedented demands of FB scalability.))

  10. Paul, you’re a brilliant guy. Why this obsession with Facebook? So much more interesting to read your other topics. The world does not revolve around FB. While this is a slightly more critical post, which is good, it’s still too much on the topic (IMHO).