FaceBook, Ning, Google & the Flow of Community

Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape (at age 22), Opsware and Ning (translation: the smartest guy in the room), is joining the board of FaceBook, according to TechCrunch.

Andreessen, of course, has a unique position in the history of the Internet. His entrepreneurial success is also well documented. However, it was not until he started blogging that I realized what a great thinker and writer — a communicator — he is. (Although, like others, he has slowed down his blogging recently.)

I hope Andreessen’s joining FaceBook’s board sends an “openness” message regarding the future of FaceBook. Andreessen’s company, Ning, offers a platform for setting up a FaceBook-like community for your club, church, cause or company. In the past, I have perceived Ning as competitive to what I thought the longterm plans of FaceBook were. Granted, I can understand how the two could be complimentary — FaceBook is focused on macro-community, Ning is focused on micro-community. Obviously, my understanding (translation: speculation) means nothing as Andreessen and Zuckerberg are the only two minds that really had to be melded on this.

Fortunately, because Andreessen blogs, we can understand a little of how his mind works regarding the ways in which social platforms need to work together. On May 14, for example, he wrote about Ning’s integration of two “social” initiatives from Google, Open Social and Friend Connect. (They also support other initiatives like “Open ID.”)

Here’s a quote from that May 14th post:

“From a strategy standpoint, we want to enable maximum flow both into and out of Ning networks and the rest of the web. It should be as easy as possible for users to get from elsewhere on the web into a Ning network, and likewise as easy as possible to flow from a Ning network to anywhere else on the web — and ideally, while taking their social context with them. We think this makes strategic sense for two key reasons:

  • First, it’s good for users, and whatever is good for users is good for a service like Ning. We think that’s obvious.
  • Second, you don’t get lots of flow into anything on the web without having lots of flow out to the broader web.

  • Having someone on FaceBook’s board who advocates that point of view is a good thing for FaceBook — and the rest of us who develop tools and content designed to build community.