With Facebook's Thunder Stolen, Many Are Wondering What Will Be Announced At f8

-Mark Zuckerberg at f8-It’s no secret that Facebook is no longer the hottest startup in Silicon Valley. With Twitter pursuing an aggressive search strategy and a fast growing user base thanks to Oprah’s support, Twitter is now Silicon Valley’s darling. Facebook however continues to add millions of users a week and the company has an active developer base that’s looking for some indication of Facebook’s next big step.

The first f8 event brought about the beginning of the Facebook platform during which time Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the era of a new web-based operating system. While Facebook was able to attract a large number of developers, the honeymoon has ended and developers are now looking for a clear vision from the company’s leadership.

Last year, the company announced the release of Facebook Connect. It has become clear that Connect is a longer-term strategy though, with the largest “launch partners” only beginning to roll out their support.

Can Facebook Squash Twitter’s Buzz?

This year, one could assume that Facebook may be touting a more open platform at the f8 event but with all the buzz Twitter has, Facebook will truly have to wow people with a new product. Will it be the previously rumored micro-payments platform that many have been eagerly anticipating? Will Facebook completely transform their system into the web operating system of the future?

It’s not really clear at this point. The one clear thing is that Facebook’s beautifully architected social platform is requiring a substantial number of resources just to maintain the existing growth. Consider that Facebook has the largest photo storage system on the web and has a rapidly growing video platform as well. Also consider the thousands of Facebook applications which are constantly pinging their system for information and the growing platform team that’s required to manage it.

I previously proclaimed that the continued opening of Facebook’s core features would help them combat the Twitter threat. Twitter however is much more agile and appears to be pursuing grandiose visions of developing a real-time Google.

Mapping The Social Graph With Free Food For All

In contrast to Twitter who’s pursuing a search strategy, Facebook is pursuing a strategy of most effectively mapping our social graph. To do so, Facebook has provided users with a number of free services and a feed which previously gave us voyeuristic to each of our friends. The rapid growth of Twitter drove Facebook to open their feeds even more to give us unfiltered access to our friends.

Not only do we now have unfiltered access but Facebook is letting users take that access anywhere they please with the opening of the feeds. The opening of the feeds however has somewhat commoditized feeds as a service. This commoditization may explain the increasing traction that FriendFeed has experienced over the recent weeks.

When it comes to feeds, filtering is the single most important feature and Facebook has removed their once highly valued automated feed filter (it has now been replaced with the less efficient “highlights” tool). So if Facebook’s automatically filtered feed isn’t Facebook’s core vision, what is it?

What Is Facebook’s Next Big Move?

As I said earlier, Facebook will have to wow Silicon Valley with a new product release or new platform feature at this year’s f8 if they are going to take back some of their thunder from Twitter. Last year Facebook announced f8 on June 26th which means that we could still be months away from buzz surrounding Facebook’s anticipated announcements.

That doesn’t mean we can’t begin to wonder what those announcements will be. I’ve already begun receiving numerous emails asking about Facebook’s annual developer conference. So far there has been no signals from Facebook and I wouldn’t expect their to be at least for a few weeks if not a couple months. That doesn’t mean we can’t start wondering what Facebook could possibly announced.

What do you think Facebook will announce? Do you think they can take back some of Twitter’s thunder? Do you think “the thunder” even matters for Facebook?

Photo of Mark Zuckerberg by Brian Solis. Original source.