Is 20k installs per day the new norm?

Thanks to the combination of smartphone proliferation, the app store distribution model,  FB Open Graph integration and Twitter, we are seeing mobile apps reach incredible metrics very fast – particularly in daily installs and sign ups. 

It’s has me thinking about a number of things:

FB Open Graph integration is clearly paying off for developers. My worry is how long it lasts, namely, Facebook can change the rules of the road anytime they want. When I was on the board at OMGPOP, I saw how impactful (positive & negative), Facebook’s changes could be with things like notifications and invites. Is Facebook traffic a game to be played or something else? I wrestle with this question everytime I see that hockey stick chart coming from FB traffic. 

I’ve been meeting a string of startups getting 20k installs per day (or more) very quickly. Is this the new norm? I know how long it took Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare to reach that level of daily sign ups. It took a lot longer than a few months. 

Getting that level of traction is so early is very exciting. The benefits are obvious so I won’t go into them.

What are the drawbacks?

It can skew perspective. How much capital do you need? How many people do you need? What kind of people do you need? 

I met an early stage company the other day and the founder presented a slide saying they plan on acquiring 100M users within a year based on the Series A fund raise. Their early traffic and user sign ups are exceptional and the company is only a few months old. Deliciously audacious and you know what, maybe they will get there. Its interesting to compare that with my conversation with David Karp, at 19, who told me he wanted to get 1M users after one year (instead they signed up 500k and I’m not complaining!) 

The other thing about all of these companies that quickly reach 20k installs a day is it can make people (press, investors, employees) believe 20k per day is the new norm given the speed of distribution and number of socially connected users.

And I’m wondering if that’s really true and what is means. 

If this is the new norm, it would lead us to believe apps and web services that don’t reach this level of velocity so quickly aren’t worth supporting with our time and money. If we applied that logic I can think of a long list of beloved apps that would be never have been given a chance that are massively huge and important today. Some things take time to grok beyond the early adopters. 

One of the reasons why the Tumblr community is so damn awesome is that we have been doing this thing together for a long time. We didn’t get here because of OpenGraph. It’s a relationship that has seen a lot together. We’ve collectively celebrated and mourned. We’ve struggled with downtime issues. We share things we find wonderful and sad. Personal and professional. We get excited about new features together. We make stuff happen together

A few months ago Caterina Fake made an argument that exceptionally rapid growth isn’t good for building online communities. It’s a great read and got me thinking. 

I don’t want this post to suggest that I don’t like, care about or respect the levels of scale that we haven’t seen before. It’s absolutely stunning and I’m beyond happy for founders behind these companies. And I’m hoping to invest in some of them (or hopefully before they break out!).

I’m just trying to get some perspective about where we go from here.