• 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
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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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