Facebook: A Platform Built for Disruption
As you might imagine, these announcements were met with mixed reviews. Many have written about the conference, and what the new experiences will mean for both users and marketers. I've had the benefit of five full days to reflect on these changes; I've even upgraded my own Facebook page to the new layout thanks to a handy little hack that's been circulating across the Web.
Facebook is profound. It has become ubiquitous with an online presence. It has evolved into the ultimate communications platform; a platform built for innovation and disruption across the Web as we know it today.
Facebook as a disruptor to user experience
Innovations in user experience were central themes at F8. The most recent enhancements include timeline, ticker, and the evolution of the "Like" button -- all tools that help foster the creation and maintenance of an online autobiography that users can share in real time with the people who matter most to them.
These features will help facilitate greater openness and transparency among Facebook's users.
Seeing these features in action immediately reminded me of David Kirkpatrick's 2010 non-fiction work, "The Facebook Effect." In that book, Kirkpatrick very deliberately explores the evolution of Facebook's stances on user privacy. One of Mark Zuckerberg's central beliefs is that people today care less about privacy online, provided sufficient controls are made available to restrict access to certain pieces of content.
In fact, one of Facebook's fundamental beliefs is that an open and transparent online life will help facilitate a world that better understands itself, helping to break down stereotypes and misconceptions.
Within Facebook, they refer to this online openness as "radical transparency."
Facebook as a disruptive application to innovation
An emerging theory about Facebook is that its ultimate ambition is to create an "alternate web," providing an end-to-end experience completely housed within its sleek blue walls. Search Insider Derek Gordon discussed this specifically in his Monday column, "The Parallel Internets."
While the idea of an alternate Internet may sound a bit far-fetched, think about what is already possible within Facebook. As a user I have access to email, IM, forums, applications, even e-commerce. With the F8 enhancements, additional services like music and movies are possible (Spotify and Netflix demos were shown at the conference).
These new enhancements are significant for two key reasons:
1) Most everyone I care about is on Facebook. So this evolution isn't a mere replication of web services and functionality; it facilitates a deeper shared experience that isn't possible anywhere else because of Facebook's ubiquity.
This is exciting to me as a user.
2) These applications will allow for new types of social graph connections, which in turn promise to strengthen existing offline relationships. For example, I will now know that Bob down the street is also a Killers fan because of his Spotify streaming activity.
Being able to instill an enhanced sense of community will be exciting for developers.
What we'll likely continue to see is a snowballing effect in the application development space. Applications will be built with native Facebook Open Graph capability, if not built entirely within the larger Facebook platform. And as a result of this innovation and enhanced functionality, more users will be drawn to Facebook.
Facebook's Impact on Search
What does all of this have to do with search? Truthfully, I'm not certain... yet.
I've voiced my opinion in the past that search will continue to evolve into more contextually relevant verticals, and that Facebook in particular seems ripe to benefit from that evolution.
With Facebook aiming to facilitate a more open society through a platform that may one day parallel the Web in its entirety, we should anticipate that finding (and now sharing) information will be easier than ever.