While Facebook’s presentation skills were lacking during today’s new features event, I thought there were some interesting tidbits that came out of Zuckerberg’s ramblings.
1) Facebook gets it. Over the past few years, Facebook has unveiled incremental design changes and new features, which by themselves aren’t earth-shaking, but collectively have served to move the platform forward and give Facebook the freshness users demand. Doesn’t this strategy sound familiar? I was also pleased to hear Facebook’s goal to make the Skype integration and video calling “stupidly easy”. As seen with Apple’s current success, if your business is built around scale, new features and products must be easy enough to use that even people who don’t like dealing with technology will have a blast using your product. Facebook gets it.
2) Facebook wants to redefine how we use the web. Zuckerberg is a believer of apps and while a ton of people at Apple HQ agree with him that apps are the way to go over the next 3-5 years, Zuckerberg wants those apps to run on the Facebook OS, whereas Apple wants to keep the curated app garden on Apple soil. While Facebook’s primary goal has been to increase its user base (and I suspect this will remain a top priority until 1-1.5 billion people are on Facebook), eventually Facebook will shift its attention on third party apps and webpage connectivity (and I am not just talking about Zynga games). Down the road, the Facebook OS can be expanded outward, with the help of mobile devices, so that Facebook serves as a bridge between our daily lives and our always changing social network (re: how your social network may impact the way you perform mundane chores around town, shop for birthday gifts, or even get a new haircut). We will look at the web in a much different light.
3) I doubt Facebook cares about competitive pressures from Google+ (if there are any), Twitter, or any other social networking platform. Facebook’s biggest competitor isn’t another company, but instead user’s quest for privacy. Facebook’s success depends on people sharing information, privacy be damned. Twitter and other social features are helping people get use to the idea of sharing ideas and thoughts. If Google+ catches on in some way or form, Facebook would hope users will become only more willing to loosen their privacy setting because “everyone else is doing it”, or “it’s becoming the norm”. Only a few years ago, it was taboo to have a public Facebook profile due to concerns over employers or family peeking into one’s life. Now its common to share mundane photos or interesting posts from the web with strangers. As time goes on, people will continue to lower their privacy walls and not even realize it.
Facebook is quietly hovering over its targets, not yet ready to attack. Showing little outward aggression and more secrecy and obscurity than clarity and straight forwardness, Facebook is content with expanding its reach and building its army. Eventually, the time will come for Facebook to attack with its foot soldiers being you and me (assuming you are on Facebook). With a current valuation in the neighborhood of $50-$75 billion, investors are betting Facebook has its sights on quite the large battle.