Facebook for Fun and Profit - InformationWeek
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Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar
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Facebook for Fun and Profit

Facebook has quickly risen to near the top of popularity among web sites, creating a platform for mass group collaboration.  Is your organization ready to exploit the opportunities presented by this new social networking site, as well as understand the risks?

Facebook, a social networking web site initially created for college students to share information, plan events, and keep tabs on friends has quickly erupted into one of the most popular sites on the Internet.  According to Comscore, Facebook had 26 million unique visitors in May of 2007, a growth of 89% over a year ago.

Last week my colleague Mike Gotta posted some thoughts and links to articles about the enterprise risks from Facebook, and there certainly are a few.  But there are also a number of opportunities.

The success of Facebook can largely be attributed to two traits, the first is that the site is exceedingly simple to use.  After receiving an invite from a friend I was up and running on the site in a matter of minutes.  All it took to find many of my own friends was entering  my Gmail and IM account information to let Facebook scan my address book and buddy list to find friends of mine who were already Facebook users.  I quickly found a number of interesting groups to join by looking at the groups my friends had already joined.  And I was quickly able to share information about my own current status with my friends.

The second primary reason behind Facebooks’ success is its extensibility.  Facebook has opened up a rich set of APIs enabling third party application developers and service providers to quickly add functionality to the Facebook system.  Example applications include integration with IM services, video chat capabilities, mobile capabilities, and tools for sharing rich content with friends.

From an enterprise perspective the concepts of Facebook can provide an enhanced ability for groups of individuals to share information, participate in informal or formal chats, create message forums related to projects or tasks, and establish social relationships between employees.  But at this point Facebook doesn’t have business-focused services.  I’d love to see a “walled-garden” capability that companies could use to create private internal communities for employees, and perhaps business partners and/or customers.  With additional extensions Facebook could easily be integrated into enterprise document management and workgroup document sharing applications to provide a robust collaboration environment.

Enterprise collaboration managers would be well served to begin now to experiment with Facebook and other related social-networking applications such as LinkedIn to gain a better appreciation and understanding of how social networking tools can reshape the way individuals and groups communicate and collaborate.

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