The true meaning of Facebook

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Have you been thinking about how the dramatic rise of Facebook -- and most recently, Facebook's move to open the platform to other developers -- affects your organization or your work? Then mosey on over to the discussion that's currently unfolding on the Facebook Developers Group (sorry, folks, that's a Facebook internal page -- yet another reason to join Facebook now).

There's a lively debate about whether Facebook is a developer's worst nightmare (because Facebook or Facebook developers will scoop whatever you come up with elsewhere) or dream scenario (because Facebook can extend your community and provide a route to viral growth). The same possibilities should concern anyone undertaking a social networking or social media project; after all, why invest in an online community if Facebook is going to knock you out of the game?

That's the half-empty way of looking at Facebook. For people seeking to build online communities -- particularly in the non-profit sector, where resources are limited -- the half-full perspective sees it as a low-cost-to-free way of rapidly connecting with a far larger audience than you could readily bring to an external site. That's why we've been encouraging clients, colleagues and friends to consider how Facebook can complement or enhance their own social networks or online communities.

And -- as the developer debate suggests -- there is a potential risk to ignoring the Facebook phenomenon. Facebook is here, and as a relatively low-barrier development environment, is going to offer an ever-expanding range of features to your supporters, friends or customers. Offer those features yourself, and it can strengthen rather than compete with your community efforts.


Phillip Jeffrey says

June 8, 2007 - 1:14pm

It is interesting to look at the opening of the developer's platform from a number of different perspectives. I have come across a number of threads in which people lament about how Facebook is becoming like MySpace because of these new applications.

It also seems that people are unaware that because an application works within a stable environment (e.g. cool Facebook application that tells me when my favourite DJs are coming to town), that doesn't mean that the application will also be as stable or work as intended or be as functional as attended because of an overload on their servers from too many people.

From my perspective, I wonder the extent to which I should be using more of these applications to try them out and better understand myself how they integrate into Facebook vs. my desire for profile page that minimises the use of extra boxes. I actually added 2 over the last couple of days (ma.gnolia and zuPort because I know people personally associated with it). Maybe I will add more later.

I do know someone that launched an application last Friday. I will talk to him today to get a developer's perspective of the situation.

Rob Cottingham says

June 12, 2007 - 12:16pm

Thanks for this, Phillip... and I'd love to hear what he has to say.

Wild Apricot Blog : How to promote your non-profit's ca says

August 24, 2009 - 12:25pm

[...] learned from the Social Signal blog that there's an interesting debate going on about whether Facebook is a developer's worst nightmare [...]

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