5 Things Facebook Must Do To Be Really Useful - InformationWeek

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10/19/2007
10:00 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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5 Things Facebook Must Do To Be Really Useful

So Mark Zuckerberg was telling the audience at the Web 2.0 Summit the other day how he's going to double Facebook's workforce, presumably to broaden its appeal beyond its 47-million current users. (What, all those students and on-the-job time-wasters aren't enough?) Here's an idea for you, Mark: Make Facebook into a truly useful tool, one where you can do more than just post pictures and ping people you're al

So Mark Zuckerberg was telling the audience at the Web 2.0 Summit the other day how he's going to double Facebook's workforce, presumably to broaden its appeal beyond its 47-million current users. (What, all those students and on-the-job time-wasters aren't enough?) Here's an idea for you, Mark: Make Facebook into a truly useful tool, one where you can do more than just post pictures and ping people you're already in contact with anyway.I'm not going to natter on about Facebook's current pluses and minuses. We all know it's enticing, yet I defy anyone to explain exactly why. Also, if you're like me, you spend far too much time on the site, with diminishing returns for each successive session.

True, Facebook does allow you to glom onto a wealth of third-party applications, and bring them into your page. So it's not fair to slam the site for a dearth of apps. However, if you're a casual user like I am, you can't find these things. All of the apps I've come across are ones which my Facebook friends have roped me into.

Okay, so here are my prescriptions for what Facebook needs to do to morph from a cool meeting place, which is hot today but could easily becoming passé within a year, to a site that's the killer social-networking app on the Web.

1) Drag and drop onto your page. Currently, the process for accessing apps is confusing and cumbersome. Why not adopt a paradigm which allows users to freely configure their Facebook pages, and effectively turn them into their own personal Web sites?

2) RSS feeds and Twitter connections. OK, maybe these are already accessible somehow, but I haven't been able to figure out how to, for example, post an RSS feed of this blog on my Facebook page. (I know, the world's waiting for this.)

3) Make it completely -- not almost -- open to third-party apps. As Zuckerberg admitted at the Web 2.0 Summit, while Facebook is open to third-party apps, it retains the right to drop any app from its platform. When this policy is applied to malicious apps, it's fine. But if you're talking about an outside developer who's poured his or her whole company into improving Facebook, it's not so good. Hey, this even means a Microsoft-type company could be cut off. Either you're open, or you're not. Facebook should be open.

4) Tear down "The Wall." Whatever the heck Facebook's Wall is supposed to be, it ain't. I don't get it. Like I said in number 1, above, your whole Facebook page should effectively be your Wall.

5) Build out Facebook's user networks. I hate to say it, but right now, Ning has got it going on much better than Facebook when it comes to connecting a group of people with common interests. Perhaps this is because Facebook started out as a college kids' social net, where it was enough to tag yourself as going to Podunk U. to establish your group identity. Even now, when Facebook has been opened up to everyone, it's hard to easily find the networks you want to hook into, and they're pretty much defined along school or work lines. Facebook needs to make it easier for users to create their own groups, and there needs to be a completely separate sub-universe where these go according to one's interests, a la Ning.

There, those are my five prescriptions, as an interested -- but admittedly still fairly new -- user, who believes Facebook could be so much more than what it currently is. Now it's your turn: What are items six through 60?

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