On Monday at the Graphing Social Patterns conference, I moderated a panel about making money from Facebook apps, with Giles Goodwin of Widgetbox, Hooman Radfar of Clearspring, and Jeff Nolan of Newsgator. It's a complicated question, especially for companies that have existing Web-based businesses. When do you start work on a Facebook app? Will a Facebook product cannibalize your other Web products? Can an online business survive on Facebook exclusively?
The panel agreed on just about nothing, which is indicative of a market in a very early stage of development. My favorite issue came from an audience question. John Furrier asked, Is the Facebook Terms of Service (TOS) an inhibitor to innovation, or a useful framework? Radfar said that smart businesses will always push, or even violate, a platform's TOS when building new products. "It's open to negotiation," he said. Nolan extended the thought: Companies don't own their terms of service, he said. "Users dictate" the TOS that they will support.