The Economist has an interesting briefing looking at what the future may hold for Facebook as it prepares for an IPO. Facebook likes to be described using words such as “friends”, “social”, “enabling”, “utility”, “connections”, “recommendations” and “interests”.
Although China remains blocked to Facebook it still boasts 845m users and is continually looking to harvest ever more data from its users, while also encouraging them to post more and more information on all aspects of their lives, the latest being a timeline whereby users can create “an online chronicle of their entire lives”.
So, when does Facebook start to become a business research tool? It already is a formidable tool for demographic information as the many companies that use it heavily to advertise their products would tell you (although not all of them have success) and Facebook is unveiling new apps that enable people to watch movies and read the news on Facebook instead of going to other sites. It wants to go much further: travel, healthcare, gaming to name a few areas.
The Economist thinks that Facebook will soon begin to “attack the online search business”, and the significance of this has already been echoed by Google’s inclusion of it’s own, smaller social tool, Google+, in its search results.
However, it’s inevitable that something containing such a huge amount of personal data and in which so many people have a strongly vested – very personal – interest will run into rough patches…and that may be an understatement. In discussing the risks for Facebook, words such as “privacy”, “legislation”, “antitrust”, “arrogant”, “monopoly” and “greedy” start to pop up in the article.
Whether you are a Facebook fan or not, it’s a fascinating story which has already merited a film (The Social Network). I have a feeling that the main drama is yet to come. Perhaps this is will be one of those rare occurrences where a sequel could be more exciting than the original.
Me? Well , I had an account for a while, but disabled it a few months ago – perhaps I’m just “the wrong demographic”, to use Mr. Zuckerberg’s phrase. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in seeing what happens next.