Facebook: A Platform Built for Disruption

Facebook had a big week last week -- potentially the biggest of its seven year existence. At the F8 Developer Conference on Thursday, a completely overhauled layout and user experience were unveiled. Developers were also introduced to a slew of new features that will enable deeper user engagement and more meaningful social experiences.  


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.  

My thoughts?

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.

6 comments about "Facebook: A Platform Built for Disruption ".
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  1. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, September 28, 2011 at 5:47 p.m.

    The impact on search is going to be directly correlated to the incremental amount of publicly exposed content people publish and share on the FB network - just like it currently does.

    But, the impact on "media" is where these new innovations matter for Facebook's bottom-line, and this is how and where the recent changes are truly disruptive.

    Imagine this: everywhere people are sharing their music (Spotify), TV & Movies (Hulu, Netflix), Books/Mags (name em) Facebook will now have a distributed presence. So, instead of asking how FB is going to make 'advertising' work on network, we all should be imagining how they are now going to shakedown a host of new partners via contra/revshares from all the new traffic & customer they are now going to drive their way.

    Get it? Facebook becomes the new gossamer thin social interstitial site between everybody and their discovery of friend-targeted music, film, TV, books, travel deals, apps ... everything that's remotely sharable.

    Soon, they don't have to bow and scrape for thin margin CPMs on crap display inventory on site or the pennies on top of FB credits: they are soon going to be the most humungous affiliate "network" ever imagined.

    Like I say - imagine that.

    @tkennon | + Thom Kennon |

  2. Shawnta Collier from Geomentum, September 28, 2011 at 6:06 p.m.

    I totally disagree with Zuckerberg statement regarding online privacy. I in fact do care and I'm sure many other do as well. Only those that are not in the loop about why their information should remain private are probably the ones not concerned about their online privacy.

    Like seriously, how dare he make that assumption! I'm sure his information on FB is more private than other users! As far as search goes, really simple...the more information FB users feed onto FB the easier it will be for marketing, audience targeting, etc...

  3. Chris Simpson from AU/SOC, September 28, 2011 at 6:07 p.m.

    The article came across to me as a pathetic, gas-filled puff piece. Facebook is a business strategy based on capture of personal data for the purpose of re-packaging and re-sale. Sometimes they are quite authoritarian or even barely legal in how they go about it. Other times they are a bit more clever. Imagine that.

  4. Daniel Lally from gyro, September 28, 2011 at 9:47 p.m.

    Not sure how capturing data that users freely volunteer is "barely legal." People used to subscribe to newspapers and magazines, order from certain catalogs and buy specific products from DM pieces and (horrors!) Internet "Web sites." All of this produced "personal data" that was "packaged" and "sold."

    I'm not sure exactly what your complaint is, Chris. If you don't want Facebook to know something about you, don't put it on Facebook.

    It's social media.

    You are in public.

  5. Abdul Khimani from gyro, September 29, 2011 at 1:56 p.m.

    Totally agree that Facebook is building a very strong community for the developer world. Here's a tweet from Heroku (the app cloud host that lives inside Facebook): Huge Open Graph momentum with social devs, we've seen more than 33,800 new Facebook apps in last 24 hours (!/heroku/status/117336914079662080). That's incredible! Now it is up to the devs on how sticky they make their apps.

    I think where Facebook is going with this is to not only make sharing frictionless but also the consumption. You discover something that truly interests you (will improve with Graph Rank), you consume it right within Facebook, and if required to pay, use Facebook credits. Very similar to the Amazon 1-click experience. I don't think we are too far from the day when you'd be buying a book on Amazon with Facebook credits sitting right inside Facebook. Now they even know your purchasing habits.

  6. Ryan DeShazer from GSW Worldwide, September 29, 2011 at 4:18 p.m.

    Thom - thanks much for the comments. I like your like of thinking...Facebook as a huge affiliate network. That view may not entirely come to fruition though; GraphRank looks to impose a high relevancy requirement in order for posts/shares to be visible across a user's wall. Thin affiliate offers won't likely meet that relevancy standard.

    Shawnta - I'm in your camp on this one. I believe it was in the Kirkpatrick book, but I remember reading about a Facebooker who made everything about himself publicly visible through his Facebook page, all in the name of a more open lifestyle. I've tried to force myself to be more comfortable with that, but there are some things (family pictures, for example) that I'm not comfortable sharing with just anyone.

    Chris - immature potshots aside, your stance that Facebook's strategy is a ploy to capture and re-sell personal information is misguided. In Mark Zuckerberg you have a guy who turned down a $1 million offer from Microsoft for one of his project applications, while he was still in high school. Later, he turned down a $1 billion buy-out offer from Yahoo! If he's only in it for the money, then he's playing one hell of a poker game.

    Dan/Abdul - cheers guys :)

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