Like the arid Oakland hills, the blogosphere has spent the summer ablaze with developer anger, as it dawns on everyone what it means to build a company dependent on someone else’s platform. News flash: They have you by the cojones.
But the reality is Twitter can put up as many two-by-two matrixes as it likes; Dalton Caldwell can write flame posts on Facebook’s untoward intentions with developers all day long. Even if hundreds of developers stop building apps for these platforms, hundreds more will rush in. Why? Because, particularly in the case of Facebook, no one has ever constructed a way to immediately reach 1 billion people through their social connections before.
This isn’t really a debate about how developers would like to be treated. It’s a debate about whether developers can afford not to use these mega miracle-grow platforms. For anyone who wants high growth and lives in a competitive space, it’s a Facebook world. It reminds me of when Rupert Murdoch painted Google as the murderer of old media — long after the old media world tied its content and headlines in knots to get a higher Google ranking. It’s like me bitching about Comcast. It pisses me off that Rwandan villages have better Internet access than I do, but I have few options than to keep paying hundreds of dollars to be pissed off every month.
Consider Glassdoor, the site that lets you peer into the walls of companies to see how much they pay and how they treat employees. It’s been around for a while, slowly growing and getting regular attention for its CEO rankings and salary data. Part of that was by design. In the early days, Glassdoor made you give data to get it. But earlier this year, it wanted to get more aggressive.
So back in April, it launched something called Inside Connections on top of Facebook. It’s a service that allows you to see if you know anyone who knows anyone at a company you might be researching about a job. The company spent four years getting to 6 million monthly uniques — that’s more than doubled over the course of just 90 days, thanks to Facebook. The company had 1.4 million registered users a year ago, and that’s grown to 10 million registered users today. There have been some 400 million connections uncovered by job seekers and 98 percent of new users are signing in via Facebook. “We are adding a user a second right now,” said Robert Hohman, co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor in an exclusive interview with PandoDaily.
Think about that for a minute. This isn’t a new company, so those percentage increases aren’t off a small number of users. This is a four year old company with an experienced management team and deep pocketed investors. Facebook just changed its entire trajectory in a matter of months: How fast it’s growing, where it’s growing and possibly even its fundraising and hiring plans.
Back at the time when it launched Inside Connections, Glassdoor Chairman Rich Barton told us Glassdoor was tracking identically to how his previous company Zillow grew. Facebook has helped it accelerate that pace dramatically.
The biggest impact? In a matter of days, Facebook propelled Glassdoor — ready or not– into international markets like some sort of daredevil human cannonball. Before the change 20 percent of its audience was non-US; now 40 percent is.
Surprise number three for Hohman: the quality of those users. Glassdoor has always walked a fine line in terms of how much data it gives away without forcing you to contribute or at least sign up. There was a risk that a flood of Facebook traffic might add little to its core user generated product. But content has surged too: The site now has three million company reviews and salary data points from 185,000 companies in 130 countries around the world. A stunning one in five users are actually contributing content. That’s high for any user generated content site.
Can Facebook be bullies to developers? Yep. That’s the nature of platforms. And this is why Facebook can get away with it.
Hohman has built huge companies before; he was an early executive at Expedia and the President of Hotwire, post-acquisition. But even having built large companies before, he was stunned at the rapid impact. Not every company will have results like these; it helped that Glassdoor was a pretty baked company. “The world has never seen a distribution engine like this,” he says. “I think Wall Street is being impatient with a company that’s still pretty young but has tremendous assets and value.”
Glassdoor has raised $22 million in venture capital to date, and may well have another round in the offing — in part to keep up with the recent surge in international growth. “We’re hungry,” Hohman says. “We may chose to step on the gas pretty fast.”