The Facebook Ecosystem – Some thoughts

We’re still just one evolutionary step above slimey mould
Friendster was shit, mySpace is shit and Bebo took the idea of mySpace and made it a better looking version of shit. Yet all of these had and still have massive userbases. If it were a country, MySpace would be the 11th largest country in the world. Despite an awful interface, lack of proper search and good ways of connecting with people, mySpace is making News Corp a fortune from advertising alone. I think people forget the key fact that people like to connect and want to connect. This is why Friendster did well, why Bebo is doing well and why mySpace is such a colossus even when they still can’t seem to get the simple things right. One thing they did get right, though is the inter-networking options. It’s like life itself, even in the most hostile environments, there’s life. Social networking life is still that slimey mould where life began, it is a long way off being the most evolved entity.

The New Kid on the Block isn’t so different.
Now Facebook is the boy wonder and in fairness it’s an improvement over all the rest but it is still just an iteration on existing sites. Slime 1.5 or whatever. For years people have been saying how to make the ideal social networking application and Facebook has adopted some of these suggestions but it is far from rocket science. It’s common sense really but they still haven’t made it as easy as possible to network.

Facebook the honeytrap
Facebook to me is a honey trap for pageviews. You get emails to say someone has written on your wall but not what they have written, so you go to the site and read and click and click again. You get an email when someone adds you as a friend. Now you need to add them AND spend time describing how you know them. Facebook widgets are fantastic and again are just a way of getting you to stick around. The news feed type wall showing you that your friends have changed their status message, telling you they have added photos is a fantastic honey trap for voyeurs. Facebook is artificially inflating page views in order for a good IPO or for a gullible Microsoft to buy it so it can send ads to the people who spend so much time there and then 12-24 months later they are the owner of a dying community and thinking about buying the next big thing. How many times has this happened to AOL, Mirosoft and Yahoo! ?

Because it is their nature
All those that are hyping Facebook such as Scoble do that for all the next big things and will with time, move on to something else. That is their nature and the cyclical nature of the social media environment they are part of. Some people might not realise that you need to keep up your energy reserves for the next journey to the next big thing and that using them all up and concentrating everything on this latest killer app will wear you out more.

It’s a nice contact list but it’s locked in
I’m using Facebook like a cheap form of blog aggregator. I much prefer reading blogs but Facebook allows me to see a list of friends, colleagues and associates and what they are saying and doing (to a small degree). An interactive, media rich and social contact book but one that I can’t export. The more you know about someone, the more you can trust them and work with them. This makes good business sense.

Business people using Facebook
Right now it seems to be cool for business people to set up profiles on Facebook and link with other business people as well as friends and relations. In terms of making contacts with people and learning more about people, it’s great and much better than LinkedIn but when it comes to business relationships, I really don’t want to be turned into a Zombie by someone or be poked by someone or play whatever games people want me to play that exist on their profile. There’s a absolutely fantastic business social networking site inside in the Facebook jungle and it is screaming to get out and rid itself of all the other crap floating about.

Would you bet your house on a horse race? What about your business?
Would I stop using other sites though and making contacts through these other sites? Not a chance. It is nothing short of moronic to fully trust a site that is not making money and currently just runs on the goodwill of it’s backers. Moving all your digital interactions to such a space when you cannot easily export your data or regularly synch it is a short-sighted move and one which will actually impair proper networking. Would you turn down potential business deals because you pledge your soul just to Facebook? Being on Facebook-only means you will.

Two immediate things to make Facebook a proper business tool
Facebook can do at least two things to fix that. One: They can first create a business filter option to cut out all the shiny shiny bells and whistles, a filterwhich will also just provide on first view, a LinkedIn type look where it has your college experience, business experience and what kind of networking and business you want and all the rest is hidden away though accessible. We can look at your cat pics another time, ta very much.

Two: They can also provide a way of taking all messages from people so they can be imported into GMail or Outlook and that would also include some kind of export to VCard option so you can import this into your own traditional enterprise communications system.

Yes, every business should join Facebook
Every single business that wants to do business with online citizens should get themselves a Facebook, like they should get a Bebo and should get a mySpace. Stick company details up on it. Link with people. Import your blog into Facebook, create widgets if needs be, have the Meebo widget on the profile too so people can message you. My own blog is now on my Facebook profile and I have Meebo too on it. If people aren’t coming to my website and are staying on Facebook then I want that audience to read my blog, so I bring it to them. Likewise, if they don’t want to message me on my blog, they can do so on my Facebook. There’s a massive, talkative and excited audience on Facebook now and it is a market businesses should make themselves accessible to but as I keep saying, realise that this excitable audience will be somewhere else in six months and you’ll need to be ready for that but in return you might reap business benefits.

20 Responses to “The Facebook Ecosystem – Some thoughts”

  1. frankp says:

    Great post… still not certain I agree with you about every business jumping into the slime… maybe I’m just not sociable enough to understand the benefits of these sites fully.

    Social media blah blah is all very well, but it seems to me that some of those who advocate them (and I don’t mean you Damien) don’t take into account that the benefit they get from them is because they spend their life on them…

    Maintaining all these sites demand for interaction and information is incredibly time consuming if you try to be on all the ‘in’ technologies.

    Possibly it’s a matter of balance, real world/virtual world – but as another irish blogger said recently (can’t remember who) if you could port the info from one social site to another easily it would be great… of course, that’s not in their interest.

  2. Robin says:

    Good post Damien!

  3. william says:

    Thank you so much for your wonder post 🙂

    Currently most Social Networking sites create closed silos of user information and content that cannot be easily shared, reused, or redistributed outside of the network. FaceBook is a closed Silo. Myspace is a closed Silo.A Facebook member cannot export their Profile to Myspace. A Myspace member cannot export their profile to FaceBook. This is not because their is no technical way to export member profiles; its because both companies want to lock users into the Myspace and Facebook silos.

    The Facebook “Open” platform is not only a gimmick it is also an Orwellian attempt to hi jack and redefine the term “Open” I think that may “Open” source proponents would agree that “Open” when it refers to software applications at the very least means inter operable. FaceBook is not interpretable. Myspace is not inter operable. From today onwards it is my hope that those reporting on and covering FaceBook will no longer use the term “Open” to describe the FaceBook platform.

    The Data and content that members own cannot be easily exported out, or used with many other existing internet applications. The flow of data and information is one way. The Open platform is in fact open for developers, but closed to the rest of the internet. A one way vacum of application development that can never expand to any users base other than Facebook. FaceBook is a “Closed” platform much the way that Microsoft is a closed Platform. Develop for Microsoft and your application will be dependent on Microsoft technology and will not easily port to any other platfrom. Develop for FaceBook and your application will not work on any other platform. By developing applications for either you have limited the possible amount of networks that can distribute and use your application.

    AOL at one time was also the darling of the internet. A big fat closed platform that attempted to lock in users. While AOL had quit a run; it was only a matter of time before users understood that AOL was not the internet. That there were millions, and millions of other networks to participate in. Once the hole of reality was opened and members realized that they were free to go beyond the AOL wall; the flow of members leaving the silo could not be stopped. It will be the same for FaceBook.

    The arrogance of attempting to redefine and close in that which cannot be defined or captured can only lead to a steady fall and ultimate humiliation.

  4. For all that, though, it is less closed than its competitors; Bebo in particular is more or less entirely wallled in.

  5. […] UPDATE: Damien Mulley has an interesting post about Facebook and networking, especially business networking. Well worth a read.Technorati Tags: facebook, uk fundraising, fundraising ireland […]

  6. eamon says:

    >>content that cannot be easily shared, reused, or redistributed outside of >>the network. FaceBook is a closed Silo. Myspace is a closed Silo

    sounds like a job for an screen-scraping plugin. it wouldnt be difficult to pull the data from your BeBookSpace put populating your SpaceBookBe with this data could be trickier. A greasemonkey script could do it. I can hear a kid in Sweden programming it. he has longer weekends than me.

  7. Good summary but every time I read — “If it were a country, MySpace would be the 11th largest country in the world” — I puke!

    When I go on a sun holiday I turn my apartment into a temporary pad and might even even claim space on sun lounger with a towel (well if there are lots of Germans there), but it hardly makes me a citizen of Spain. I’m sorry but it’s a ridiculous analogy that just makes the whole thing sound way more important that it is. Same as for Second Life, Twitter or any online/virtual space. Rant over 🙂

  8. Daithí says:

    There was a serious-people version. It was facebook before the applications (which are very new). So if you just rewind two months, it’s all there! Everything apart from wall/message/friends/photo etc is new (although plain olde ‘poke’, too, is an oldie).

  9. […] As others have been saying recently, Facebook is a bit of a step-up from other social networking sites like MySpace, LinkedIN and Bebo. It’s certainly the first one I’ve tried which has impressed, rather than annoyed, me from the outset. It’s better looking and friendlier than MySpace, less confusing than LinkedIN, and much more accepting of ‘life outside the borders’ than Bebo – I’ve already got it syndicating my Blog and Twitter posts (you can now read them both via my Facebook profile) and there’s plenty more available through third-party plug-in Applications. […]

  10. James says:

    I signed up for Facebook a few months ago but could not see UCC / University College Cork in the list. Just had a look now and I see it must have been added since…

  11. […] Damien Mulley wrote a piece on FaceBook today which gave me some pause for consideration. I’m contemplating how best to apply social networking tools for my secret life as a photographer, whilst trying to deal with all the fatigue I feel about social networking tools. Yes I’m on bebo. I considered looking at myspace as well, and now everyone seems to have a Facebook account. According to Damien, accounts in all these things are very useful (I paraphrase – if I got him correctly, they are vital) for businesses in today’s world. Trouble is I’m smothered with the weight of things I have to administer. I haven’t opened my bebo page in weeks, I’m administering four websites of my own (including the shiny Photography of Treasa Lynch go have a look), and I’m petrified at the thought of having something else to take care of in addition to bebo, flickr, photobox, the half dozen message boards that I moderate (though I’m sure people are wondering if I’m doing any moderating at all). And I haven’t figured out how to use bebo or facebook as a business tool. […]

  12. Would you consider removing this post because it contains the answer to a third year Mass Communications essay question that forms part of the Creative Multimedia degree at Tipperary Institute?

    Thanks in advance.

  13. Damien says:

    Anything for you Bernie. 😉

  14. Gareth Stack says:

    Regarding your first request, I’ve been recommending to Liam Burke and others that they create a ‘Plain Book’ – this could be either a Greasemonkey or Stylish script, or an iFrame (into which adsence could be put?) which would remove newsfeed application etc, and present core information to the viewer who wants a simplified facebook for efficiency or ease of use.

  15. […] Facebook Monster Damien Mulley gives a good synopsis of the evoloution of social media sites as they all take there turn being flavour of the month. What Facebook has done that is different for me is to root out a huge number of old and unexpected acquaintances. This must be due to what Damien calls the Honeytrap, facebooks automatic scan of your address book was the first thing that struck me when I signed up, it found people on facebook that I forgot were in my email address book. […]

  16. […] Speaking of Bebo, everyone seems to be migrating to or at least adulterising with Facebook. Damien reckons its an evolutionary  step up from Bebo.  I’ve dipped my proverbial toes in its virtual waters and it seems pretty similar, but looks a bit more smart and sophisticated. Apparently all the cool people are joining Facebook, which is just like Bebo but apparently cooler. Well, I say cool people, but can anyone be cool if they have an online social networking page? And seeing as though everyone has an online social networking page,does that mean there no cool people anymore? […]

  17. Ina says:

    Hi Damien,

    Again I will say it.
    The sociology for social networking doesnt work.Its the wrong model for the individual how many people actually socially network?


  18. […] Damien Mulley » Blog Archive » The Facebook Ecosystem – Some thoughts (tags: facebook social-networks) […]

  19. “The sociology for social networking doesn’t work.”

    Interesting point Ina, but I’m not sure I grok it fully. Can you explain?

  20. […] number of people have written about facebook in the past. Damien, back in July (to name but one) of last year, and in the same month, Paul […]