• 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.
 7 Examples: Put Gamification To Work
7 Examples: Put Gamification To Work
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Facebook's eye-watering IPO has raised some awkward questions for the future of social networking. The record breaking $100 billion valuation was greeted with skepticism from some quarters, which will only have heightened in the wake of a less than stellar trading performance.

Investors and analysts are nervous. Facebook may have almost 900 million users, but the company only makes an average of $5 profit from each of them per year. Finding ways to increase that figure without alienating people is an urgent task.

Cynics might even suggest that Mark Zuckerberg and company are cashing in now precisely because future growth is uncertain, but let's not forget we're talking about a man on a publicly stated mission to change the world, for whom wealth seems to be only a secondary concern.

[ Can Facebook cash in? See Facebook's Advertising Problem. ]

For the moment, Zuckerberg is pointing to mobile platforms as a means of increasing profitability. In order to stay relevant Facebook knows it must follow its users as they migrate to smartphones and tablets. What's not clear is how the company plans to increase the effectiveness of the adverts, which provide the bulk of its revenue on devices with smaller screens. Still, a mobile centric strategy is one that investors can at least understand and appreciate. Mobile is today's hot ticket, and Facebook needs to be there.

But what about tomorrows hot ticket? Many observers are beginning to point to a new platform on the horizon--the smart TV--and Facebook must to do a better job of preparing for it than it managed with smartphones and tablets.

Manufacturers like Samsung are already offering smart TV sets that include online apps along with voice and gesture control. Microsoft has also made moves into this arena by positioning its Xbox games console as a set-top box with Kinect providing the smart interface. A next generation Xbox console, rumored to arrive in late 2013, will no doubt offer more advanced smart TV functionality.

Perhaps most ominous of all, Apple's next big venture is rumored to be a smart TV product, and if there's one company with the pedigree to smash open a blossoming market it's Apple. Just look at iPhone and iPad for evidence of that.

However, it would be more than a little premature for Facebook to highlight smart TV as a driver of growth right now. After all we're talking about a platform that hasn't really arrived yet. Smart TV is still an embryonic concept in the equivalent of the pre-iPhone era of the smart phone market or pre-iPad for tablets. Once again it may not be until Apple shows its hand that the smart TV truly enters most people's consciousness.

Zuckerberg and his colleagues will be more than aware of its imminent arrival and behind the scenes Facebook must surely be preparing for a smart TV revolution.


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.