Dear Mark Zuckerberg by Dalton Caldwell
Christina Wodtke stashed this in Startups
Wow, this was pretty illuminating. While Power corrupts, fear corrupts absolutely. Apparently the negotiation team doesn't understand many things, from the need to keep good relations in an aqui-hire to what a platform actually means.
I LOVE the image you gave to this convo, C: Zuck, I am your father!
The weird thing about Dalton's writeup is that he comes across as whiny and weak.
Everyone in Silicon Valley knows Facebook is both bureaucratic and a bully; that's the way Zuck has always run the place, and the Facebook stormtroopers are merely a reflection of the Facebook culture that has been there since the beginning.
Facebook has always seen its platform as a way to get good ideas from other people while keeping engagement high. Whenever a platform app threatened user engagement or Facebook's power, Facebook dealt with it by shutting down its virality -- or shutting it down completely!
Meanwhile, Facebook doesn't enforce its own rules against "favored nation" companies... Until it wants something. Example: Zynga was allowed to break Facebook's rules on channel spamming for years until one day Facebook decided Zynga wasn't as useful anymore and systematically made Zynga's existence on Facebook harder through friction and taxes. It's Zuck's Law: What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine.
As for messing up the acqui-hire process, Facebook figures everyone is pretty disposable. If Dalton storms out there are many others who will beg for an offer instead. Paul Graham has been training his minions for years that getting acqui-hired by Facebook is the next best thing to succeeding as a startup.
Especially in a time where Facebook under $21 a share has made seed investors nervous enough that many seed stage companies are unable to close seed funding.
The Death Star is as much a tool for intimidation as it is a tool for destruction.
Adam, thats exactly what Zuck did with Instagram. FB's engagement hovers around photos. Instagram, a photo sharing app, threatened Facebook's most important engagement metrics.
If I were Dalton, I would focus on building and launching than wasting my time on these blog posts and campaigns.
I would also give more reasons from User's angle on why we need a new social network.. not just 'advertising sucks'. that's not good enough to launch a new social network.
He is doing this just to get more eyeballs.
If he has to do this, just to get more eyeballs...the product is not good enough for those eyeballs! Good social product must spread itself thru social connections and invites.
I re-read the article and no longer think of it as whiny and weak.
His leaving that Facebook meeting was a show of strength.
And Dalton wasn't whining to Zuck; he was simply informing him why he walked out.
I want app.net to succeed. Let's see what happens from here.
I supported App.net with a developer account ($100) mostly out of curiosity. Fb invited us to a similar meeting with them. Instinctively, i chose not to go there. When you start having all the good deals, you stop have more deals.
I checked their alpha but it is hard for me to get excited yet. so, far the questions remains on the product innovation front for App.net to succeed.
What do you think they'll need to succeed?
I believe Dalton will need to demonstrate thought-leadership in social the way Steve Jobs demonstrated thought-leadership in mobile while introducing iPhone. I am still waiting for this to happen.
Do you believe Zuckerberg or Dorsey have one that?
Because I don't think they have. They're no Steve Jobs.
Zuck is more like Bill Gates - Get the whole market build the platform.
Dorsey is still a bit closer to Steve Jobs. He had made simple stuff that worked on the internet.
From what I've read, I like Dalton's philosophizing and mannerisms of expression. In my opinion, though, this crosses the line from missional into delusional. My previous company was an early user of the original App.net and we were extremely satisfied with the product.
But...Where do we even begin with this letter?
How about a fun comment on Hacker News:
I don't understand what you think Facebook did wrong.
They intend to enter this new space, using their technology and their people.
As a courtesy they offered to hire you / throw a lot of money at you.
What would you have had them do instead?
Not compete with you, because you're a precious snow flake?
Acquire you and treat you like a prima donna, giving you your own team and allowing you to take your own technical direction?
Why should Facebook - or any competitor - do either of these things?
Seems to me like they acted pretty reasonably here."
I have three things to say:
1. Why didn't he just email this to Mark himself? He mentions on the Hacker News post that they share a board member -- Marc Andreesen -- so ostensibly he's implying he could easily get a meeting with Zuck. Therefore, this seems more like a marketing attempt for his name and his project, riding on the wave of Zuck/Facebook-bashing.
2. This letter reads like an "F-you" to Facebook and Twitter, which is fine; however, for me it puts in to doubt the whole missional reasoning behind http://join.app.net. Is he missional about open platforms or just a spurned lover trying to create a competing platform because he's ticked off? Is he Robin Hood or Selina Kyle? That's not clear to me.
3. What does http://join.app.net do? Given the page has been liked 80,000 times with only 1,750 backers (compared to 110,000 likes and 50,000 backers on Kickstarter for Ouya), I can't imagine I'm the only one who has no clue what his new project actually does. And as an early App.net user -- the original idea -- I hope he doesn't abandon his early users and vision.
To me this is surprising given that his previous company raised $50m and generated $2m/mo in revenue. One would think he'd be a better tactician and strategist. Michelangelo says "criticize by creating," and whilst one could argue App.net is a critique on Facebook, I believe if he is such a strong visionary he could have worked within Facebook to create something extraordinary.
In summary, this letter reeks of a desperate attempt to raise more awareness for http://join.app.net without -- still -- actually explaining what the product is or what it will do. (Show AND tell, not just tell).
Just my $0.02.
I agree with the Hacker News comment. Also:
1. You're right that he went public with this as marketing for his new project. It's never a good idea to go negative with marketing; it reflects poorly on the person making the negative comments.
2. I re-read Dalton's blog post and you're right, it's a big F-U to both Facebook and Twitter. Why throw stones at the giants? Either they'll ignore you or, if they're annoyed by you, they'll crush you.
3. 80k LIKEs but 1750 backers demonstrates that LIKEs are a weak signal. Or maybe people LIKE the idea of ad-free Twitter but not if they have to pay for it. Or maybe people like the vision but not enough to spend $50 on the experiment.
The new project is to build an alternative to Twitter that is monetized by power user subscriptions instead of advertising. This is the Pinboard model.
Btw Dalton's company didn't raise $50 million; they raised $5 million and spent most of it building PicPlz (the precursor to Instagram, now Facebook) and app.net (the precursor to Facebook App Center).
He picks good markets and I agree with him that the world needs an alternative to Twitter.
I had meant Imeem. I like the vision behind app.net but this post leaves a bad taste.
Postive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.
Oh, and I guess Marc andreesen has responded:
Ouch, poor Dalton. That hurts.
I like Caldwell's move here. He's illustrated a problem with the other platform incumbent (Facebook), *and* doubled-down on his stated commitment to building an enduringly independent alternative. If you buy his mission, as a follower rather than a return-maximizing investor, this is all great stuff.
Land on new territory, burn your boats behind you so there's no going back. Dalton vs. Goliath, baby.
I'm hoping he's got more revelations or endorsements timed to hit as the campaign deadline approaches.
I'm guessing he could fund the whole $500k himself if needed.
Here's to hoping it's not needed.
well, he can fund it himself but that would look stupid.
I guess he wants to prove that enough number of people want to pay for an ad-free social network.
Well, he proved it. Now it's time to build it and see...
2014 thoughts on this?
1) It's harder to replicate Twitter than anyone thinks.
2) Twitter itself has struggled to keep people engaged.
3) As a result, Facebook has gotten even more powerful.
What would it take to build a Facebook replacement that allowed users to own their content? I really hate Facebook, and think about this a lot.
Also, will Yo be the next twitter, or just fizzle...
Yo will fizzle. It was a good experiment but usage has already tapered off.
Building a Facebook replacement is a good idea but it's unclear how to get critical mass.
If it were straightforward, someone would already have done it.