Don’t underestimate the fundamental human need for acceptance by our peers. This desire to connect and communicate is the reason that Facebook exists.
Google realizes the importance of the social graph. That’s why they tried launching their own social network called Orkut. It was only ever popular in Brazil and India and it’s now losing out to Facebook there too. The need to connect was also the rationale behind Google’s Open Social but that hasn’t taken off either. Add Google Social Search into the mix and it’s starting to look like they’re flinging mud at a wall to see if anything sticks.
Google’s Social Search is a great concept. The idea is that it gives me more relevant public content from my social circle rather than simply displaying search results from the most trafficked websites. However, there’s a problem with Social Search. The problem is that Facebook revolves around networks that a user can control. Not everyone can see what I post on Facebook, only 700 of my friends who i have authorized. Facebook’s privacy controls are becoming more and more customizable. Google’s search engine can’t crawl closed Facebook pages. This is a problem for Google because Google Reader only accounts for .01% of upstream visits to news and media websites while Facebook sends 3.52%.
From a business’ perspective, why would you design and code a website from scratch? Why would you want to pay a programmer to make changes for you? Content Management Systems like WordPress almost remove the need for programming knowledge. These platforms have proven immensely popular, but they only scratch the surface of social integration with a few plug-ins that connect to social networks. You have to go where the people are and the meteoric rise in Facebook Pages is just the very beginning. Facebook’s Open Graph API will be the end.
Looking one step further, why do I need to log in to every different website with a different user names and password? I’m not very good at remembering them all anyway. What if I could maintain just use one user name and password for every site? There’s a solution for this and it’s already available, it’s called Facebook Connect. Many websites already allow login through Connect to tap into Facebook’s social features. Facebook Connect would really take off if a big player like a bank or an airline became comfortable with the login security and began using the platform.
Don’t overlook the changes that Facebook have made to email reminders either. You can now post to your wall or reply to a comment from your email inbox. It’s obviously the first of many new email-related developments. The logical next step is to allow direct responses to messages. Or better yet, why not just build an email platform? Maybe that’s why Paul Buchheit works at Facebook. Paul is the guy that created Gmail and FriendFeed.
Its clear that Facebook is fast becoming a central platform for the internet. In your own business, start to think of Facebook like an operating system that sits on top of the web and makes everything easier and more accessible to everyday internet users. It’s analogous to Windows or Mac OS on our own computers removing the need for us to understand binary code.
The network would have to make a huge error in policy direction for them to lose now. I have over 700 friends and 1000 photos in one place. Most of those photos I can only see because other people put them there. I’m not going anywhere. Ironic as it is, I’d probably join a Facebook group to protest changes or update my status if I don’t like something they implement. Maybe one day Google will have to build a search application on the Facebook API. That probably won’t get uptake though because Facebook’s own search function is good enough.
I might talk to my broker about shorting Google stocks to buy more Facebook shares when they float their IPO…