You may have noticed that each post here now has a Facebook “like” button on it. This is part of Facebook’s latest set of “social plug-ins” that were announced at F8. Rather than re-hash what they have done, though, I want to tell you what it means.
Step one: Facebook is going to make the whole Internet a community space. Everywhere you go, you will see what your friends liked on sites. You will know what movies they watched, what CNN articles they read, what YouTube videos they thought were funny. You will see their streams and comments annotating the Internet everywhere you go. And they will be able to reach out and chat to you on the chat bar at the bottom of your browser.
Step two: Facebook is going to be your identity card for the Internet. Facebook has always aimed at being the only login you will need. With this, they have made a strong play to have you just always be logged into Facebook, everywhere on the internet. All the top sites you use will simply expect you to be logged in, and over time we will see that functionality on the site will start to require this identity information. And soon after that, you will have to be on Facebook even if you don’t want to be.
Step three: Facebook will aggregate this data into a new type of search. Everything you do, all your opinions weighted by your like factor aka reputation), the combined graph data and aggregated community information, will be funneled back into the centralized database to form what today are called “pages.” This will become something akin to Wikipedia pages over time, only with constantly changing data and editorializing. Wikipedia data itself will be just a tab on this page. Amazon-style recommendation engines — and likely space for e-commerce — will sit alongside this; imagine a Wikipedia page on, say, a music recording, with an “you may also like” tab.
Step four: Facebook will be your virtual wallet. Once identity is everywhere but most importantly, secured on Facebook’s servers, then it will make more sense to buy on the Internet with those than with Paypal or a credit card. Especially since this virtual currency will be earned in any number of ways, such as via loyalty programs, frequent visitor programs, etc. Virtual currency will be used as a retention device and as a cross-promotional tool by businesses.
Step five: Facebook will push this into the real world, and become your id card for reality. You will come to the movie theater and walk up to the self-serve kiosk to buy your tickets. Under each movie will be the list of friends who liked it and their comments. You went in expecting to see one thing, but the theater knows you — and it tells you in no uncertain terms that you are going to like this other movie better. And you’ll pick based on those social recommendations. You will swipe your Credits card to buy your movie ticket using some credits you earned with the loyalty program in Farmville, and swipe it again to get into the theater. You watch the movie, which helpfully tells all your friends where you are and what you are doing. Any status updates you make from your phone during the movie are tagged with the movie, and get cross-referenced on the movie’s page on Facebook.com; after the first day, there’s a complete plot synopsis, review summary, and critical exegesis available there. When you leave, you wave your card at the “like” podium as you leave the movie — more loyalty points, more free tickets.
Think I am exaggerating? Facebook is literally trying to be
- the semantic web
Oh, they may not run all these businesses directly themselves. But this is what being the identity source of the Internet means. And with the partnerships that Facebook announced in tandem with these, they have been given a massive leg up. The battle is on — plenty of other big companies will now try to carve off pieces of this pie. But the core identity advantage is going to be hard to overcome.
Stage five may sound awesome to you. There is real delight in it. Just now I saw a tweet go by from @triptych:
wow. I went on pandora, it knew I was friends with josh whelchel and suggested music based off his work! @soundofjw
Yup, that is the magic. But I left out the part where people create Facebook identity skimmers and stand in front of the movie theater; where your history of likes gets analyzed by a third party and turned into direct marketing spam; where there’s a data breach and your credits get taken; where you lose a job because you once liked the wrong kind of site; where companies start paying people to form fake social graphs (“friend me and get free stuff!”) in order to push astroturfing influence into social recommendations; where Facebook bans you because you got rowdy, and now you have no virtual identity.
Welcome to a crazy new world.