Stanford professor Anand Rajaraman takes a look at the recent debate about the long tail from a different perspective:

It is instructive to look at the Facebook Facebook app trends study published by Roger Margoulas and Ben Lorica at O’Reilly Research. The study shows that at last count, there were close to 30,000 facebook apps. Usage, however, is highly concentrated among the top few apps, a classic example of a hits-driven industry (see graph on right) — no long tail. However, these hits have been produced by the collective action of millions of Facebook users, rather than by a small set of savvy media executives. And there’s a lot of churn: new applications join the winners and old winners die and are buried in the tail.

The real Long Tail created by the internet is not the long tail of consumption, but the long tail of influence. Earlier, the ability to influence the decisions on who the winners and losers were rested with a few media executives. Now every social network user has some potential influence, however small, on the result. The long tail of influence, combined with instant feedback loops, leads to a short tail of consumption. The Facebook app market is a leading indicator of the path the entire media industry will take in years to come.

If you’re not reading his blog, Datawocky, you’re missing out.