In your wildest of wildest dreams would you think Facebook and Geocities did similar things?
Wall Street Journal reported:
[The] ur-Facebook of 1994 was called GeoCities. And both its rise and fall are a history lesson for [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg as his social-networking site… approaches its own crossroads…
Back then, entries were known as home pages, not profiles. But the basic, expressive elements of today’s Facebook and competitor MySpace, owned by News Corp., were all right there.
“It’s the same as it is today — people want to feel like they’re connected,” says Mr. Bohnett, now a 51-year-old venture capitalist…
“I knew right from the beginning that this was going to be big,” he says.
Microsoft CEO was quoted:
Mr. Ballmer also noted that sites such as Geocities, an online community that was bought for $3 billion by Yahoo! in 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, “had most of what Facebook has.”
Marc Andreessen’s rips the comparison or should we say the ‘false similarities’ in his posting,
Geocities was nothing like Facebook — or Ning — or any other modern social networking service.
Point #1: if Geocities was basically Facebook before Facebook existed, then Yahoo today would be, basically, Facebook. Social networking services inherently have network effects due to viral growth; the big tend to get bigger (unless they commit suicide); Geocities the hypothetical ur-social network would therefore today be absolutely enormous; Yahoo owns Geocities. Yahoo, some people have pointed out recently, is not Facebook.
But here’s the real point — point #2 — which I will make by presenting three lists.
The Geocities feature set from the 1990’s (complete):
- Personal home pages
- Image uploading
(Yes, that was it.)
This stuff really matters. The heart of a social networking environment is the ability for people to connect and communicate — users love that, and Geocities didn’t have it. Plus, Facebook and Ning are both platforms that allow end users to programmatically add features without the approval or even awareness of the platform provider — users love that, and Geocities didn’t have it. Plus, Facebook and Ning both have increasingly sophisticated multimedia and mobile capabilities — users love those, and Geocities didn’t have them. In short, other than the ability to create a web page and post an image, Geocities had none of the functionality of a modern, sophisticated social networking service like Facebook or Ning.