Thursday, January 31, 2013

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How Second Life Co-Creator Cory Ondrejka Gave Facebook a Second Life (on Mobile)

Cory Ondrejka Facebook

The Wall Street Journal has a good article on Facebook's new direction as a mobile-centric company which includes this excellent story about Cory Ondrejka, who co-founded Second Life with Philip Rosedale, once wandered the virtual world as a flying spaghetti monster, and is now the social network's lead engineer for the mobile division:

[In 2011] Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg realized he had miscalculated. Facebook's own data showed that a large number of users—the company declined to say how much—were going to their phones' Web browsers to access the social network... In October 2011, Mr. Ondrejka and other engineers began discussing rewriting Facebook's iPhone app at an engineering summit. Three engineers began building a prototype. When Mr. Ondrejka had enough data he met with Mr. Zuckerberg in the office of Michael Schroepfer, Facebook's vice president of engineering. Mr. Ondrejka stood in front of a white board and sketched the architectural differences between the current iPhone application and a rewrite and how they could staff up his team to get it done. Mr. Zuckerberg pressed Mr. Ondrejka for more proof that Facebook could rapidly improve its performance with the rewrite. Mr. Ondrejka assured him he finally had the technical resources and engineering expertise to get it done.

And so he did, and the Zuck did grin, and now the userbase of Facebook on mobile looks like this:

Facebook mobile usage

So over 600 million Facebook users now access their social network on mobile. That's actually more Facebook users than the network had total when the 2010 David Fincher movie on its founding came out. It's these kind of numbers, yes, that companies like Linden Lab are looking at too, when they create more products for mobile.

Speaking of virtual worlds, Cory, hasn't completely gone away from them, because he's a lead investor in the web-based Cloud Party. And given the chart that you see right here, I'd expect a mobile version of Cloud Party to come out soon.

Hat tip: SF Gate and lots of fellow Lindens.

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You can experiment with running Cloud Party on mobile right now.
There is a thread with talk about device compatibility here:

WebGL is not super stable on mobile yet but it's cool to see it running.

Kim Anubis

Esprite, thanks for that link.


Yep, the way Facebook got to 600+ million mobile users is simply by being on the web. Even if all 300 million or so iPhone users had the Facebook app, it'd still only account for half of the reach Facebook has by being a website first.

Cloud Party, whether it becomes a success or not, similarly will benefit from the face every new mobile device has an increasingly better mobile browser. Just last week Chrome for Android's beta shipped with WebGL support.

It doesn't hurt to bet on an AppStore, or Desktop, but the one thing that seems future proof is the web and the browser.

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