electronic brain surgery since 2001

Why Facebook will destroy Flattr

You might have noticed the new button below each of my blog posts already. It's a Flattr button.

Flattr this

Flattr is a social micropayment platform that lets you show love for the things you like.

If you haven't heard of it yet watch this video first:

Sounds great and that's why I and many others like to see it succeed.

However I don't think we will see that happen. Instead I'm pretty sure we will see it replaced with something similar by Facebook soon.

I see three things that Flattr is currently lacking: Users, Social Features and Ubiquity.

Missing Users

Flattr is currently invite-only beta. Judging from my user ID I guess that it has about 10,000 to 20,000 users currently. This means a lot of good content can't be flattr'ed right now because it's creators have no access to flattr. It also means there are only few people who can “share their cake”.

Both problems are supposed to go away with flattr opening to more users. But it needs to attract a lot of users fast. This is a problem Facebook no longer has to solve.

Update: @tante adds another interesting thing: Flattr seems to attract lot's of content producers currently, but no “consumers”. This means the money is only shuffled between the few who create content currently. Facebook on the other hand has a *huge* mass of people who don't create but are willing to spend money for content (see Farmville etc.)

Missing Social Features

This is what I consider the greatest blunder of the current Flattr. The money that can be currently earned through the system is probably in the Cents area (due to the lack of users). But flattr'ing something has an additional value: it shows that you like something.

If you so far wondered why I even mention Facebook, it should be clear now. Showing that you like something is exactly their business with the rollout of their OpenGraph protocol and the “I like” button.

But in Facebook I will share the stuff I like with all my friends and I can see what my friends like. This creates (non-money) value for the content producers: more people will be see their content.

Flattr has no concept of friends or sharing with the world. I can not see who flattr'ed my content or – to speak in Facebook terms – who is my “fan”. There isn't even a way to export what I flattr'ed, eg. to share it in my Linkblog.

Missing Ubiquity

You can flattr only what the content producer considered flattr worthy. You can only flattr single blog posts here because I only added the button there. If you want to flattr some other page here or one of my dents at identi.ca or a github commit, you can't.

On Facebook you can share everything that has an URL. There are even browser extensions to do so.

Facebook Currency on the Horizon


Facebook is already working on their own currency. Combining the “I like” button with exchanging Facebook credits is just a tiny step further.

But it would make a whole economy available to content producers immediately. Credits bought to buy Farmville stuff could suddenly be used to say “Thank you” to content producers as well – a much lower entry level for donations than going through the hassle that is setting up a Flattr account.

What do you think? Will Facebook overrun the little Flattr experiment soon? Let me know in the comments please.

flattr, monetizing, facebook, webservice, future
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