There have been a lot of comments about Facebook in the blogosphere, and I think some people are missing the point.Â For some reason, all the talk is about the applications.
It’s not about the applications. It’s about the people.
Facebook is first and foremost a collection of people, a community. Many communities. Yet one community. What the core platform and the applications do is to extend and enrich the ties within that community. Within those communities.
The applications are just things that attract the people and bind them together. The applications enrich the relationships, not the other way around.
We have to start thinking of Facebook not as a “social operating system” but as a society. One representation of society. And it’s different from other cyber-communities in a very real way.
How come? My guess is that Facebook friends see each other a lot more often than was the case in other communities. It is rooted in physical relationship rather than just electronic. The interactions are therefore a lot richer.
And this phenomenon, of a physical community being extended and enriched by electronic ties, is something that is a lot closer to real life, be it at university, within a residential areas, amongst a group sharing a common hobby.
Or being at work.
I’m looking forward to seeing how we see two things develop within the Facebook environment. Collaborative filtering. And prediction markets. Now both of these are really Wisdom-of-crowds plays, and need market liquidity, a critical mass of active and passionate users. Which Facebook have got. In spades.
This line of thought has some interesting consequences. One of which is this:
The success or failure of Facebook will not be measured by a rise or collapse in the number of applications on the platform. For sure we will see the number of applications rise. And crash. And consolidate. And when they consolidate, the final “stable” number may well be measured in the low thousands, because these apps will represent a long tail of usage. Amongst a couple of hundred million participants, this is to be expected.
So expect the doomsayers. The doomsayers who will look at a collapse in the rate of apps getting on the platform and claim it is the end of Facebook. The same effect will be seen in Groups. And whatever else.
It’s not about any of these things. It’s about the people.
The metrics that will continue to matter are: How much time does a Facebook participant stay online every day? What is the Just Joined rate? What is the Gone Dormant rate? How many groups does an average participant belong to?
Applications are important. The platform’s “openness” to new and changing applications is important. But let’s not make the same mistake that the IT profession has been making for decades. It’s not about the apps, it’s about the people.
Facebook is a community of people. All dressed up with everywhere to go. The world is their oyster. Or maybe I should now be saying “worlds are their oysters”…..