Facebook sees the value in flexibility. Why else would users be able to choose what goes on their profile page, and in what order? Why else allow users to choose which applications to use? Why else allow multiple languages for F8 when it would have been faster and easier to offer PHP-only support? Flexibility allows users to shape their experience and gives respect to usersâ€™ differences. Choice makes people happy.
But not all of Facebook is as flexible and modular as the Profile page, the Applications and the Privacy Settings. The Main page however is reminiscent of the Profile page circa 2005, giving users access to the news feed, birthdays, application invites, pokes, status updates and a â€˜monetization boxâ€™. All this sounds reasonably appropriate; and the news feed is configurable anyways. So what gives?
As Facebook extends its demographic reach into Professionals looking to network, users become more varied in their home page needs. My father isnâ€™t too interested in how many pokes he has received and it is likely there are more profitable ways that he can be â€˜monetizedâ€™ then by todayâ€™s new Candy Bear gift (only a million left!).
Dashboard Widgets for the Home page would be a powerful addition to the Facebook arsenal. First, every current component would be made into an application and subject to being resized or dragged and dropped or removed entirely. Applications, tons of which didnâ€™t quite work on the Profile Page would fit perfectly as little useful widgets on the home page.
One widget could leverage the power of Facebook to quickly look up friendsâ€™ numbers. A calendar widget could update the user about upcoming events and meetings. A more advanced birthday application could allow friends to organize in groups to buy gifts for friends and give more variable notice time. A music widget which leveraged friendsâ€™ music tastes could be popped out right from the start page.
All of these applications can be built already and sort of work as widgets on the profile page. But Profile Page widgets allow friends to leverage bits of information about you and not the other way around. Homepage or Dashboard widgets would make Facebook a direct competitor to IGoogle or Netvibes and go from being one of a few Firefox home page tabs to the only one.
Facebook already knows that gifting flexibility to users and developers yields significant value. Already the news feed itself has been modularized; a third party with sufficient clout could release its own Facebook Dashboard Widget API (www.facebookdashboard.com is available). Google and Netvibes would be wise to offer widget-building tutorials specifically for Facebook Application developers. But Dashboard Widgets as key part of F8 would be more likely to succeed, being much simpler to integrate with an existing application and avoiding the ensuing compatibility that would likely ensue among third party social dashboards. Flexibility and simplicity, and everybody wins.
Alexey Komissarouk is a Technology and Business Consultant with literally months of experience with the Facebook F8 Platform. He is available at AlexeyMK[at]gmail.com