“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Facebook on the Mind and Home Page

Posted by direwolff on June 13, 2007

Since getting into Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and finally connecting with various friends, including several I didn’t think would be on there, I’m beginning to feel a large metaphorical wave building under all of this. It’s the like the sum of the incremental changes and features of Facebook, many of which are not new, but lots of which are implemented in better ways than other such services, plus the fact that more people understand what social networks are as well as what all of the widgets can do for them, all of this is working towards creating a perfect storm. I posted on my Facebook status that just the Newsfeed feature is a gamer changer for them. Just the fact that I can keep up with all of my friends’ and contacts’ activities in near real-time is exciting.

While waiting for my new friend Sean who works with France Telecom’s Orange group that recently came out with a Netvibes competitor named Bubbletop, it occurred to me that the market of companies with start pages should soon feel the impact of the Facebook Platform. If I was any of the players in this space, including Netvibes and Pageflakes, I’d be exploring how to leverage Facebook’s API quickly. While many of these start page applications have been innovating from where the early MyYahoo! started, there’s nothing that beats keeping up with one’s social network as a means for capturing people’s attention. It’s interesting to me to see that Bill Tai is alternating sit-ups and responding to e-mail, or that Tara Hunt just posted some new cool pics, or that Kevin Werbach and Stowe Boyd are now friends with Don Park. It’s even interesting to see which applications my connections have added or removed from their profiles.

All of this reminds me of Seth Goldstein’s new Atten.TV, which is really trying to exploit these principles to the nth degree. Here’s how Atten.TV describes its service:

Atten.TV turns personal clickstreams into social media. It allows people to watch what other people are clicking on, in real-time.
You can be an exhibitionist and broadcast your clickstream to the world.
Or you can be a voyeur and just watch what others are clicking on.

Given the interest that people have in their friends and other people, it certainly makes sense that perhaps there are people who would want to know what others are looking at, not for any nefarious reasons, but just to know that they’re not missing out on the good stuff or out of curiosity for what others are exploring online.

The companies offering start pages, which in addition to the ones mentioned above, also include the likes of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, are really missing the importance of all things social which really should be driving those start pages. Because none of them has excelled at delivering on true community models like Facebook, I’d say it will be easier for someone to leverage the Facebook APIs to make these start pages more interesting, or for Facebook themselves to begin providing start page-like functionality then it will be for these others to build up the community side of their offering. Google is trying to move in this direction but they are doing so in a more implicit manner which is what has caused people concern over the privacy issues. With Facebook, it’s all explicit, I define which people I want to keep up with, not some algorithm that groups with “like-minded people who have visited similar web sites or made similar queries to mine”.

With that said, the one other area that I think still needs some attention on Facebook are the access controls. Specifically, as more and more people are converging here for both work and play there’s a need to limit access to parts of one’s profile and activities so that some people can view some parts of me while others view other parts. I’ve recently been hearing that Facebook is a threat to LinkedIn. I’m not sure about this being the case yet, because there are lots of LinkedIn contacts and activities that I don’t necessarily want to have take place on Facebook. Primarily because some of the information I post on Facebook isn’t relevant to them. Likewise, there are some more businessy comments I may want to post on Facebook which will not be relevant to my personal non-business contacts. Breaking out access controls for “friends”, “family” or “public” is just not enough. I’m hopeful that a smart start-up figures out a way to access the APIs to help resolve this issue as well.

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One Response to “Facebook on the Mind and Home Page”

  1. Ben said

    disclosure: I work on Bubbletop

    I completely agree with you about Facebook, esp with some of the ‘social-orientated’ secret sauce things we’re baking into Bubbletop that make it different to the competition ;)

    I’m not convinced we want to put *all* of our eggs into the single facebook basket — there needs to be value to users who don’t use facebook or choose not to bring their facebook and Bubbletop accounts together.

    But the opportunities are interesting and a lot of your points in this post sum up my current thoughts.

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