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8/14/2008
12:00 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Facebook Most Popular Social Net, But Why?

If you're like me, you're of two minds about Facebook. On the one hand, you enjoy dipping in to add "friends" you might not know all that well, upload pictures few will see, and post status updates ("getting ready for the weekend, yo") the world is waiting for with baited breath. At the same time, I can't help but wonder, where the heck is this timewaster in search of a business purpose headed?

If you're like me, you're of two minds about Facebook. On the one hand, you enjoy dipping in to add "friends" you might not know all that well, upload pictures few will see, and post status updates ("getting ready for the weekend, yo") the world is waiting for with baited breath. At the same time, I can't help but wonder, where the heck is this timewaster in search of a business purpose headed?Don't get me wrong: I love Facebook, and I actually think it will turn out to be an important business-interaction tool. (Indeed, I'm a registered Facebook developer and have built a bunch of lightweight applications.) However, I also think we're all getting a bit ahead of ourselves, in that right now its utility hasn't come anywhere near matching its hype.

This admittedly unoriginal observation hit me again yesterday, upon reading the news that ComScore has anointed Facebook the top social network. (No.2 is MySpace, which now amounts to a Facebook on training wheels, notwithstanding the fact that the latter network has been aping the look and feel of the former one.)

True, LinkedIn remains the go-to destination for people who are under the delusion that they're gonna get recruited for a hot job. Nevertheless, Facebook is pulling ahead, because it has leveraged its multimedia appeal (its user interface just looks better; plus, you can post pictures!) to become the place most of us go whenever we can't figure out where else to go on the Web.

Which begs the question, what does Facebook need to do so that we don't abandon it when the "next big thing" comes along. I believe there are two things it should do immediately, while there's a window of opportunity.

  • Create "Facebook Business." Sure, right now you can parse your friends into closer personal contacts who can see your full profile and those more casually met, who can't see everything you do. But if Facebook really wants to be business-useful, it needs to go one step further and create a more professional looking destination which is tuned specially for work-related stuff. How would this differ from LinkedIn, you ask? Maybe not a whole heck of a lot, and I'm not sure I have a specific idea. (Actually, I am sure; I don't. That's for the FB people to figure out.)

    Facebook has a big interface advantage over its many competitors -- users have voted their approval with their clicks -- so it should just dive in with something, anything, and then iteratively improve it.

  • Better Web 2.0 tools management. Facebook needs to create a neat way for me to manage all my social networking tools. For example, right now I can use my Twitter feed to update my Facebook status. I also can post links and pictures, and I am sure there are apps which enable me to directly loop in things like my Flickr pictures. However, there's no clean, integrated interface to manage all the pieces of my Web 2.0 world. OK, maybe there is, but right now it's called Friendfeed, not Facebook.

    Those are my quick-and-dirty suggestions. What're your ideas? Post them in the comments section below, or e-mail me directly at [email protected].


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