Mark Zuckerberg might want to fast-track Facebook's initial public offering.
In what appeared to be a hasty response to the launch of Google's rival social-networking product, called Google+, Mr. Zuckerberg on Wednesday unveiled Facebook's new video-chatting feature. He called it "super awesome." Too bad Google made the same feature available in 2008. Indeed, Facebook suddenly looks vulnerable. This could be bad news for investors who have recently paid top dollar for stock in Facebook in private sales.
Rule No. 1 when launching a social network: Make everyone wait in line. Exclusivity was how, in its early days, Facebook built buzz. For more than two years, you couldn't get in unless you had an email address ending in .edu. Google is using a similar strategy with Google+.
Facebook should take note that Google used the strategy before to kneecap Yahoo in all-important email, a key driver of Yahoo's traffic. Then Google rolled out Gmail—but only by invitation at first.
Rule No. 2 is to deliver a better service. Adopting a new social network could prove similar to adopting a new email address: Many will try it out, but to keep using it, they have got to be given good reason. That Gmail offered significantly more storage space than typical Web mail meant millions were willing to make the switch. Similarly, Google+ offers upgrades on what many perceive to be Facebook's shortcomings.