The next development phase for services featuring large member databases

When developing and launching community like services, the major obstacle isn’t the development of the community itself, but to attract a large enough user base to reach critical mass. Populating the community rapidly is a key success factor since it’s rather boring to hang out in a community on your own.

During 2008 we’ve seen the rise of distributed communities such as Google Friends. While the fundament of distributed communities goes further back in time, Google takes the concept to a new level. We’re no longer bound by a domain in order to socialise online.

From my point of view the next development step for distributed communities may be to allow the possibility to populate smaller entities such as a word or an image or merchandise such as a book. While this may deconstruct our idea of identity as an aggregated set of attributes, it may also simplify the process of finding new peers online.

But what of large scale community services featuring huge member databases? Services such as Facebook and Hi5 aggregates vast amounts of data which may be mined to extract implicit and explicit user preferences, a possibility also OpenID have – at least in theory.

One of the key factors for success among large scale communities is opening up for entrepreneurs to develop applications. But what if you turned it all around and let businesses tap into your member database?

This implies you could develop and launch your community and then populate it rapidly by tapping into the member database of say Facebook.

While no one could guarantee that users would actually activate the membership, but they would have the possibility to. And if they did, profile and network bindings could swiftly be setup automatically since you would have all necessary data needed for an instant launch.

As far as I know this haven’t been done – yet.

What’s your take?


  1. Jesper Åström says:

    In some way it allready has been done. Just think of the cross platform applications for facebook, Hi5, Orkut etc. Such applications focus and appeals to a specific interest of a certain population. They tap into the db’s of the allready existing monsters and extract the data they need in order to turn revenue or stickiness from/to these online ”institutions” or subcultures.

    Also, I would really recommend anyone interested to tap into the HUGE resources of Yahoo Developer Network. My god.. I got a lump in my stomac when I realized how much info is actually public :)


  2. Stefan Deak says:

    It is not quite the same thing to use Facebook’s, Orkut’s or Hi5′s platform in order to build an application using an API and to build a separate platform which can be populated by Facebook’s, Orkut’s and Hi5′a members.

    I’d like to think about it sort as of a car (the community) and it’s driver (a visitor with implicit and explicit preferences). Depending on the driver the car will be handled in different ways.

    And just like about any driver can swap easily between cars so I imagine that this member database should work. You just logon and all your network bindings and information will be there. The only thing you’ll need to do is to tune your privacy settings.

    For newly launched services such a database could be a way to get going quickly. For companies handling such databases you could make money by leasing out users, but they would also have the possibility aggregate new user data since they would still own the account data.

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