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Facebook Is Web's Future, Say Parker and Benioff

10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools
Slideshow: 10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools

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As Web 2.0 Summit kicked off Monday in San Francisco, the keynote speakers wound up spending almost as much time talking about Facebook and their relationships with Facebook as they did about their own companies.

Partly, that was a matter of the questions put to them by event co-chairs John Battelle and Tim O'Reilly, who made the growing role of Facebook one of their major themes. Facebook CTO is Bret Taylor is scheduled to speak Wednesday.

Web 2.0 Summit is produced by Battelle's Federated Media and O'Reilly Media in partnership with UBM TechWeb.

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, who was originally scheduled to speak about his company and its connections with the Facebook developer ecosystem, canceled his appearance late last week, citing "quiet period" concerns related to the company's pending IPO, Battelle said. To fill that role, he recruited Sean Parker, one of the cofounders of Napster and now a board member and advisor to Spotify, a music service that has been promoting deep integration with Facebook.

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Attendees also heard from CEO Marc Benioff, who remarked on the extent to which "Facebook is eating the Web," by encompassing so much online activity, "and how that is accelerating." This is very much relevant to enterprises, because Facebook is where their customers are going.

Parker, a former president of Facebook, was also the subject of an unflattering portrayal in the movie "The Social Network," which painted him as a bad influence on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. At one point, Battelle asked if he was trying to create material for a sequel with a public quarrel with Zuckerberg as reported in the New York Post. "This shows the potential of one little, minute, irrelevant, and largely incorrect rumor--spread largely by social media. I end up being a victim of these platforms I've had a role in creating." While it's true he and Zuckerberg have been "discussing" such things as how tightly Spotify should be bound to the Facebook platform, "we weren't having a yelling match on Hollywood Boulevard," he said.

Parker expressed some ambivalence about the new frictionless sharing, or passive sharing, where Facebook automatically broadcasts the listening, reading, and viewing habits of Facebook users who authorize applications that implement this feature, including Spotify.

"A balance should be struck between active sharing and passive sharing," Parker said. Some users who want to share what they are listening to may consider passive sharing a convenience, but active sharing is more meaningful, he said. When you share something funny with your friends, you do so "because you think they're going to laugh, and you're going to look good," he said. The viral spread of links and comments that flow to the top of the news feed "only works when people actively decide what to share," he said.

In response to a question from the audience about the threat from rival services such as Google+, Parker said it would be very hard to overcome the advantage of all the friend connections forged within Facebook. "It can happen, and obviously it did happen before with Myspace," he said, but it wouldn't happen easily. "Facebook would have to screw up royally, and Google would have to do something really smart."

"I really think Facebook has the vision to be the next generation consumer operating system," CEO Benioff said. "I would like to be doing as many amazing things as Facebook is doing." He said he studies Facebook very closely for things like how the social network enlists developers.

"Spotify is all I use now for music, which has been a rapid transformation for me," Benioff said, happily noting that Facebook contacts can now see what he has been listening to.

"Everything moves faster because of social media," Benioff said, pointing to the rise and fall of political regimes as well as companies. That's why Salesforce bought social media monitoring specialist Radian6 in March. "I think this is the most exciting business opportunity for enterprise software that we've seen," he said, because it puts his company in the position of helping firms understand the currents of social media. "You need to embrace this at a deep level or face the consequences."

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.