If there is to be a time in Facebook’s history when it will be remembered at its prime, 2011 may turn out to be that time. Expected to surge past 600 million members, and possibly 700 million before year end; revenue expected to grow beyond $3 billion this year; a valuation of $50 billion and growing; and its once only domestic competitor on the verge of implosion, Facebook appears to be unstoppable.
Today it would be almost unthinkable to have an Internet in which we couldn’t search for anybody; however, less than a decade ago, finding people who we knew was something limited to “pro” web surfers and the Internet providers who owned all of our data. Now, all you need to do is load up Facebook and more often than not, you’ll end up finding the person you are looking for. Despite the massive success of the socal network, the company is still far from accomplishing their vision of “giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” a highly abstract concept.
There’s no doubt that the company has come a long way, though, and at this point there aren’t many comparable services to Facebook outside of a few regions, including China and Japan, two areas that Facebook is focused on expanding within. While Facebook continues its endless pursuit of connecting everybody with Internet access to each other, an ever expanding ecosystem that has been built on top of Facebook continues to grow.
Social Is Commoditized
In the first half of the last decade, the concept of social networks was still hot and everybody was trying to succeed where companies like AOL, Friendster, Six Degrees, and others failed. Facebook has come out on top and while there’s still a lot of work to be done on Facebook’s end, developers can begin thinking about a world in which social is the default. For example, downloading iPhone games that let you compare scores with your friends or boast about your new achievement has become the standard.
The world is moving toward social being the default and application developers have the opportunity to take advantage of the ever-expanding social layer. If we were to compare the world of social media to the Internet as a whole, social media would be where the internet was back in March of 2003, the year before Facebook was founded. At that time, the Internet had 600 million people (source). Today, Facebook is approaching the same milestone. As of today, the Internet is about to surpass 2 billion users.
That means Facebook, and the world of social media, has a lot of growth ahead. While the launch of the Facebook platform felt like another gold rush, we’ll look back years from now and realize that the second wave of the Internet (post-bubble) was a multi-decade transformation, not some flash-in-the-pan event. What should be most exciting for developers is the incredible size of the opportunity ahead. With Facebook, the opportunity for distribution of ideas is at a scale never imagined before. While many developers will continue to try to exploit the subtle intricacies of the Facebook platform, in an effort to make fast money, the much greater vision is great ideas.
Great Ideas And Visions Win
Facebook enables ideas to spread instantaneously. In a matter of seconds, a college student in Iowa can learn about the follies of a soldier in the Middle East playing games in the barracks only minutes earlier, while simultaneously reading about that backlash stemming from a controversial Sarah Palin posting related to a U.S. congresswoman shot a few minutes earlier. The information age has truly revolutionized the world and humans are only beginning to understand the impact. As we strive to learn of new ways to use these new tools for good, it is increasingly clear that the world has a deep need for visionaries, idealists, and innovators.
While Google, YouTube, Twitter, and many other Internet platforms are powering the information era, Facebook has built a system that makes the mass consumption of information as simple as it can be: through sharing with friends. With Facebook now serving as the platform for the sharing and distribution of information among individuals, it is our duty to figure out how we can solve the problems that were created by the lack of access to this incredible platform. Fortunately, the platform itself grants us access to the problems of those who are connected to it. All we have to do now is solve them.
With MySpace imploding, and all signs pointing to a Facebook victory, I think it’s pretty clear that we should stop focusing on the risk of competition for Facebook and begin focusing on how we can each leverage one of the greatest opportunities in history.