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November 16, 2007
 
Results Software

HUNGRY MACHINE GETS IN ON FEEDING FRENZY


by Tom Lee, for Bisnow on Business

Facebook is hot, of course, but there's another reason besides all those user eyeballs: Unlike predessors like MySpace and Friendster, it's built a platform that lets third parties create integrated applications. When they unveiled the opportunity to build Facebook apps earlier this summer, tens of thousands of developers responded and an exploding new industry appeared overnight. The rush to build those apps hasn't spared Washington, and no firm is closer to the middle of it all than Hungry Machine, LLC.

The majority of the Hungry Machine team personnel last week in their Georgetown offices. Aaron Batalion and Tim O'Shaughnessy, left and center, helped to found the firm in July. Developer Warren Konkel, the company's fifth employee, was on day four when we snapped this.
Started in part by senior staff from Steve Case's Revolution Health, the shop provides a set of Facebook apps that range from the fun & fluffy -- one app lets you send virtual beers to friends -- to the more substantive Visual Bookshelf, which helps users showcase their media collections. But don't assume these apps are intended solely to draw attention to the consulting services that the firm conveniently offers. Although O'Shaughnessy admits that "there is an element of a land grab" of Facebook turf among all the new application developers, he's quick to point out that he and his partners are excited about their apps' direct commercial potential. "The apps are definitely not loss leaders," he says. "We think the ad space will continue to mature and rates will continue to rise as advertisers begin to understand the targeting and value of the data."
Of course, every Facebook developer lives in Facebook's shadow -- there's little stopping Zuckerbergian storm troopers from swooping in, replicating an application and making its original authors irrelevant. But Tim's ready: "That's definitely something we're cognizant of. We fully expect Facebook to continue to expand their platform and they may build some things that ultimately are competitive." Hungry Machine plans to mitigate the threat by expanding their apps to other destinations.Conveniently, the last two weeks have provided them with a place to go. On November 5th a Google-led alliance including Myspace, LinkedIn and SalesForce announced OpenSocial, a shot across Facebook's bow that aims to provide a new, unified platform for social network application developers. Hungry Machine is among OpenSocial's launch partners. In fact, they've already ported Visual Bookshelf to Orkut, Google's own not-that-popular social network (although it's huge in Brazil, for some reason).
For now it seems that the rival networks are poised to duke it out for developers' affections, which is helping to make life better for outfits like Hungry Machine. As O'Shaughnessy notes, "Wherever they best allow developers to financially capitalize on the applications is where we'll be most attracted to work."Tom Lee's blogs can be found at www.DCist.com
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