• 05/30/2012
    4:31 PM
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The Second Coming Of Facebook

Beyond the post-IPO gloom lurks unchanged potential for greatness.

Facebook's History: From Dorm To IPO Darling
Facebook's History: From Dorm To IPO Darling
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The television is an inherently social device anyway. Of all the screens people spend time with, it's the only one that naturally accommodates multiple simultaneous users, and it remains the primary device for consuming entertainment. A smart TV would also provide a much larger screen than competing devices and arguably the biggest potential for socially connected advertising, as Microsoft's NUads (Natural User Interface Ads) are beginning to demonstrate. People are accustomed to adverts on their TVs, so it may prove fertile ground for Facebook to push for greater ad exposure.

Smart TV could also address one of the biggest ironies of social networking today; that it flows between devices that are most comfortably operated by individuals. If I want to share the fun with people who are actually in the same room as me, I have to pass them my iPhone, hold up my laptop, or wait for each of them to locate the item of interest via their own devices, completely eliminating the joy of simultaneous appreciation.

In contrast, simultaneous appreciation has always been part of the magic of TV, and in terms of augmenting and facilitating real-world social interactions TV beats all the other devices hands down.

For Facebook, one of the most tantalizing possibilities could be a huge expansion of socially driven content. Today, users who connect their Spotify accounts with Facebook can share their music in real time, inviting others to listen simultaneously and make comments. On a smart TV, users could discover and share not just music, but documentaries, TV series, games, and movies via an integrated Facebook ticker or news feed, right on the platform through which we all consume the majority of our entertainment.

Live TV could also benefit from social connectivity. People already post reactions to major sporting events on their Facebook profiles, but they have to use a different device to do it. On a smart TV, sports fans could watch and react to friend's comments as they scroll across the bottom of the screen, or even maintain a Skype connection with their Facebook friends to celebrate every goal, touchdown and slam-dunk together.

In short, if Facebook can position itself as the mediator of TV content, then broadcasters and brands will be tripping over themselves to work with them.

It's all too easy to take the negative stance and predict the downfall of Facebook in the wake of its IPO performance, especially when no clear path to increased profitability has yet been revealed. However, as David Whighton wrote in the London Times: "The truth is that in a few years time, Facebook will probably be worth much more than it is now, or much less. And, frankly, nobody has much idea which."

When considering Facebook's potential, we should not limit our analysis to our current understanding of the social network, or even the announced plans to target mobile. Mark Zuckerberg is a forward thinker, and a man with an unshakable belief that social networking can transform the world. We should be looking, as he will be, at the opportunities and the platforms that are further down the track, that way we might just glimpse the seeds he's planting for a second coming of the social network.

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re: The Second Coming Of Facebook

I think David Whighton has the right idea: Facebook isn't important enough to waste time over. It could success or it couldn't, who cares? It is neither the linchpin to Internet use that it trumpets itself nor the key to human potential that Zuckerberg apocryphally maintains it to be.

No, it is the ":haunted amusement park" that Saturday Night Live once accused MySpace of being: a vacuous environment devoid of enrichment to the majority of users, a time-sucking toy pushed on the unwary, another grow-or-die enterprise due to smother itself once it reaches the edges of its host infrastructure and has nowhere left to turn.

Smart TV now, _that's_ got potential :-)

re: The Second Coming Of Facebook

I think that the IPO was a mindset-correction of sorts--people got right with their thinking about what Facebook is and could be. That's not to say that it doesn't have huge potential, because it does. I think that the idea that its second coming is imminent is astute, and I think Facebook getting involved in some smart-TV-like venture makes sense. It does seem like it needs to break out and become part of something bigger. I think to some extent Facebook is a walled garden right now.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard

re: The Second Coming Of Facebook

I think you're right about the IPO being a mindset-crrection; beforehand people were probably far too optimistic about Facebook's potential. My main point is that all the doom and gloom in the wake of the IPO is a bit one sided and excessive, so I was trying to put forward an alternative perspective. Maybe the skepticism will turn out to be justified, but equally Facebook could reveal some ground-breaking plans in the future which completely transform expectations. Mark Zuckerberg won't be resting on his laurels, he will be looking at future technologies and upcoming platforms for opportunities to make a game changing move.

Smart TV is one avenue I imagine they could explore, but there will no doubt be others. I just think we should broaden our horizons and be a little more imaginative about the future before panicking and writing Facebook off.

re: The Second Coming Of Facebook

I totally agree. Facebook is not going anywhere.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard

re: The Second Coming Of Facebook

The title of this post already demonstrates that whistling in the dark about facebook's value is just another waste of time. Clearly, the mobile space is a disaster for facebook, poor apps with lousy performance and the screen space for ads is miniscule. Smart TV is the savior of facebook? It will be interesting to see this play out. However, I don't care what my friend listens to on spotify, why would I care what TV show they are watching or what crappy zynga game they are suckered into paying for? My taste in music and video entertainment is not the same as most of my friends. My sense among the few remaining friends of mine who still have a facebook presence is that apathy has taken hold and it will be interesting to see if the tsunami of indifference towards facebook can ever be reversed. It's not a cool place to hang when your parents and grandparents are watching. Good luck to one and all.