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Fighting the bloat: The curse of the start up

Posted by on March 2nd, 2011

Facebook Bloat
After reading quite a bit recently on agile methodology and in particular “Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application” by 37signals, I’ve been thinking a lot about business, and in particular the tech/start up scene. Here are some of my thoughts about a couple of start ups, some annoyances I have with the tech/start up scene and where I think people are going wrong.

Facebook bloat

I’ll be the first to admit, for a long time I really loved Facebook. But for quite a while now I feel like it isn’t serving a purpose to me. I understand that serving 500 million users, you can’t please everyone, but I think Facebook is evolving into something that is trying to be everything to everyone and therefore failing on what made it huge in the first place. For me, when I first signed up for Facebook it was the best and only (‘cept of Myspace, which sucked) way of keeping up to date with friends. Myspace was great early on I’ll admit, but it quickly evolved into the huge mess that it became and ultimately failed. Facebook has evolved numerous times over the last couple of years and seemingly it has gone from strength to strength. However I feel like a number of areas of Facebook are teetering on the brink of crashing down.

1. Facebook Games and Applications

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of seeing Facebook games and applications. I swear if I get one more invite, or if I’m forced to block another application I’m actually going to start a farm in some remote and distant land. Games and applications have been a huge reason for the growth of Facebook over the last 2 or so years, but I think they have come to the end of the road. This is a pretty scary thought if you think about Zynga now being worth more than EA games.

2. Facebook needs to get back to its roots

It seems to me that Facebook wants/needs to be the number one for everything aspect of your online life. From events, to comments, to likes, interests and places. This is great and I kind of like it, but they need to cut the bloat and get things back to a simple, clean experience. I think if Facebook is going to go the distance they need to fully understand and lead the way in the social graph and the communications of their users. Rather than trying to sell as many virtual credits and adverts as they can to reach enough revenue to justify their (over)valuation.

Badges and Pins, when will it end?!…but seriously.

Before I get into this, I’d just like to say I love Foursquare and Gowalla (well perhaps I’m a little bored with them, but damn they are beautiful to use). Anyway, what is up with all new start ups offering badges/pins/achievements/things to unlock/blah blah blah?! If you are stoked for getting your start up off the ground, how can you take it seriously if you are building your ‘game mechanics’ off an overused gimmick? I will never sign up for another start up that offers badges. If that’s all you’ve got, I’m bored already! On similar note, I don’t see how tech start ups ever see themselves growing huge if they are essentially copying other start up’s features or amalgamating services or platforms. The “Who gets there first wins” ideology is so true in the tech/start up scene, I honestly can’t understand why some people bother.

So much bloat I don’t even know who you are!

One last point I’d like to make. If I don’t understand who you are and what your service is offering my in the first 10 seconds I’m outta there! If you have to explain your idea in depth to someone it isn’t going to work, back to the drawing board. I see a lot of start ups in the early stages and it seems so easy for an outside to judge how big the start up is going to be. Ask as many people as you can if they understand what you are doing, if they don’t perhaps it’s time to scale back and really get the core of your idea working perfectly.

Philip Brown

Hey, I'm Philip Brown, a designer and developer from Durham, England. I create websites and web based applications from the ground up. In 2011 I founded a company called Yellow Flag. If you want to find out more about me, you can follow me on Twitter or Google Plus.