Business - Written by Naumi Haque on Friday, July 25, 2008 10:40 - 5 Comments
Facebook plans for Web domination
If you logged onto Facebook this morning, you may have noticed the new interface that we wrote about a couple of weeks ago. What’s really exciting though, is what’s going on behind the scenes. A few months ago my colleague Alan wrote a paper called “Social Networks as Operating Systems,” in which he stated that:
“Social networks and Web 2.0 technologies herald a new collaborative platform that will be very different from our experience of the Web today. Social networks are destined to become the new “operating systems” (OS) of the collaborative Internet. User identities, attributes, and relationships are all pivotal assets for the networked applications within this new platform. End users, social networks, application providers, and technology vendors will face a looming battle over the ownership and use of these assets and indeed, the question of whether they can be “owned” at all.”
Well, Mark Z. and the Facebook team must have had the same idea, because on Wednesday the company announced that it would leveraging the relationship and identity assets on Facebook to build a very operating system-like hub for all applications on the Web. They are calling the initiative Facebook Connect. According to the company:
“Facebook Connect is part of the next iteration of Facebook Platform and allows users to ‘connect’ their Facebook identity, friends and privacy to any website. Third party websites will be able to implement and offer more features of Facebook Platform to make their own site more social.”
As Mark Zuckerberg notes, the future of “this movement” is going to be “less about the site Facebook.com” and more about “other people’s apps and the experiences we are building together.” The Facebook Connect Fact Sheet outlines a few of the key features of the expanded platform:
- Expansion across the Web: Through Facebook Connect, users will be able to access their friends on any website, enabling trusted social context anywhere on the Web.
- Privacy: With Facebook Connect, users can be assured that the same privacy settings they have set up on Facebook will follow them to whatever website they choose. With Facebook Connect and all new SML markup technology, dynamic privacy is easy to implement.
- Promotional economy: When users log into a partner site with Facebook Connect, they can share their actions on that site with their friends back on Facebook, enabling them to share more information with their friends than ever before. For partners, this means increased distribution for their content throughout Facebook, enabling re-engagement and discovery of new content.
- Initial partners: Amiando, CBS.com, The Insider.com, CNET, Citysearch, CollegeHumor, Digg, Disney-ABC Television Group, Evite, Flock, Hulu, Kongregate, Loopt, Plaxo, Radar, Red Bull, Seesmic, SixApart, Socialthing!, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Uber, Vimeo and Xobni.
Although Facebook hasn’t said so explicitly, the idea of linking partner content into Facebook sounds like the beginnings of an ad-based revenue stream, or at the very least a more expansive view of consumer behaviour that they can sell as anonymized relationship data in aggregate.
According to GigaOm, Facebook could succeed where others such as Microsoft, Google, and MySpace have not yet been able to:
“It seems Facebook has a much better chance of succeeding where Microsoft and othesr have failed. FC’s integration into services of partners like Digg and Six Apart makes it very clear that it is more than just a simple web ID system play. In addition to offering a simple authentication method, FC allows granular social interactions to be embedded in non-Facebook services. If Facebook can work with its partners to build interesting use-case scenarios that go beyond simple sign-on, it is quite feasible that Facebook can out-execute Google, MySpace and everyone else with its ID ambitions. Why? Because this is their one chance of building a monetization engine. The company makes no bones about trying to build a platform that allows it to offer branded advertising in a manner akin to Google’s Adsense.
When you use Facebook Connect on a web service outside of Facebook, […] you are essentially telling Facebook’s proverbial brain what topics — blogs or specific posts — with which you like to engage. In other words, you just told the system a little bit about yourself. Now imagine such information coming from dozens of Facebook Connect partners.”
Along with the expanded platform, Facebook has also introduced more support for its community of over 400,000 developers. Zuckerberg is candid about the company’s shortcomings in this area. “Over the last year we haven’t done enough to reward the good citizens in the ecosystem and on the flip side of that we haven’t done enough to punish the applications that have just been abusive.”
As a start, the company is launching a competition for Facebook application development where the top five applications (voted on by the community) will receive $250,000 of funding. It also launched the Facebook Great Apps Program to help promote those apps that stand out and add exceptional value to the community. Those that are deemed to be ‘Great Apps’ will be allowed to work more closely with Facebook’s platform and receive additional support from the company. In terms of going global, Facebook also announced it would be opening up its translation tool so that applications can be translated into other languages.
Sounds to me like a plan for Web domination. Mark Zuckerberg’s full f8 keynote available here.
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