The Problem with Facebook’s “Places”

Here’s the thing about Facebook that really gets under my skin: They are slowly incorporating the features from every other independent web application on the internet. This is not inherently a problem—companies get bigger and they begin to have the resources to widen their feature set—the issue is that Facebook doesn’t do these features any better. They win simply due to how many users they have. It feels like mass-produced mediocrity.

When Facebook launched Photos, they immediately became the largest photo-sharing site on the internet, eclipsing Flickr nearly overnight. The problem is Facebook’s Photos functionality isn’t nearly as nice as Flickr. They became the largest photo-sharing site immediately because they already had those users who, by and large, spend more time on their site than anywhere else. These users aren’t going to venture out to Flickr if they can just dump their SD cards into Facebook.

The same thing goes for Videos (sub-par compared to Vimeo and even YouTube). Vimeo is one of the best video-sharing applications in the world but it will never have nearly as many users as Facebook, so most people use Facebook instead.

And, most recently, Facebook launched Places, competing with Foursquare and Gowalla (my favorite). Places launched and 20 minutes later nearly everyone in my Facebook friends list had already checked in. It’s not that Facebook’s Places feature is bad, it’s just that it’s boring. It’s nothing special. They didn’t do it better than anyone else.

That’s the problem with Facebook. They are slowly destroying independent web applications with boring versions that immediately win due to Facebook’s population (which at this point is the 3rd largest country on earth). There’s no demand for excellence.