Facebook Pop. 500 Million

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Free writing today so bear with me because I wanted to write about the first thing to come to mind. What about? Facebook. Facebook hitting a half a billion people is a milestone to be admired and feared all at the same time. First, to the team at Facebbok congratulations. This is a hell of a achievement for such a short period of time and gives all aspiring internet entrepreneur hope that great companies that change the world can still be built in America. Hell in this economy can still be built at all. When you think of the shear size of Facebook being larger than the entire population of the U.S., one can’t help but to marvel. Facebook is poised to change the world when it starts to make serious moves into India, China and Africa. Ways even Google could only hope to do. On my trip to Nigeria, all my sisters and cousins asked if I was on Facebook. I have my reasons for not joining, but there is increasing social pressure to do so. And that is the power of Facebook (and to a certain extent Twitter) has had on the social norms of our modern digital age. A tectonic cultural shift that transcends tech. Now the hyperlinks that connect the worlds information are being augmented by the likes, dislikes and associations we share. We are now connected more meta-physically than physically.

For all the greatness of this achievement there is a dark side to one service being such a monolith. Facebook is not a truly open platform to begin with. It has played the pidepoiper to get a half-billion people and ogranizations to join up then share their data Search engines can’t crawl it. Its Javascript snippets pollute the web through open graph and likes. I understand the overall strategy for world dominations through the human powered algorithm of ‘likes’. But I am not one who has drunk the kool-aide that the future of search is this but perhaps a supplement to the future semantic dataspaces I envision. Then there are survey’s that customer satisfactions with Facebook ranks no higher than dealing with your cable company or the IRS. So what is Facebook planning on doing with 500 million citizens and counting? Sell ads and their data of course. What Facebook has relalized since its idealism phase is that there is more value in takings that closed network and opening it than keeping it some exclusive club for college grads. Besides that, what other value add is Facebook to mankind? Simply connecting people over a game of Farmville? Not exactly. See I believe Facebook is not only in the race to be the ID card of the web but that human crawlers of information will be the future of discovery. It’s relevancy based on personal relationships with your Dunbar circle of friends. This at best is a short term, if not short sighted, vision. For Facebooks next trick they had better start offering some utility to it huge user base. I mean what can Facebook do on a daily basis to make you productive? Friends and liesure are one thing, but most of our waking hours of the day are spent working, not playing games and sharing stories. Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Apple do that for us. I use tools from three of the four everyday to get things done. These companies offer some social, but mostly utility. So Facebook needs to get into the game of offering the same things that we take for granted from these other services. Email (to the outside word), chat, docs, News and other essential services that make Facebook more than just a place to play, but to work.

This is only some friendly words of advice and by no means should they take it, I haven’t built a 500 million strong global community so I have no room to talk. I do believe that with this great power comes great opportunity to become more than just the heir apparent to MySpace. The next worry from Zuck and company is staying relevant in a fickle popularity contest that is everything “Social”. Remember Friendster.

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