TECH TALK: Facebook: The Platform

Last week, Facebook launched its Platform, effectively positioning itself as a social utility. Facebook’s rise has been as astonishing as MySpace was over the past couple years. It is, arguably, as interesting a company as Google in terms of the innovations that it is coming up with. In this week’s Tech Talk, we will take a closer look at what various people have been saying about Facebook. Let’s begin by taking a look at the Facebook numbers.

Read/Write Web has some stats on Facebook:

Facebook is growing 3% per week (100,000 new users per day) and the fastest growing demographic is the 25 and up age group. Active users have doubled since Facebook expanded registration in Sept 2006. The international user base is still at an early stage, but obviously has room for large growth. Currently Canada has the most users outside of the United States, with more than 2.5 million active users; followed by the U.K. with more than 1.4 million active users.
As well as quantity, Facebook has on its side that it is a very sticky site – 50% of registered users come back to the site every day. Facebook is generating more than 40 billion page views per month, from 24 million “active” users – 50 pages per user every day, which is very very high. In comparative terms, Facebook is now the 6th most trafficked site in the U.S. and gets more page views than eBay.

Facebook also has an impressive range of social software apps – it claims it has the no. 1 photo sharing application on the web and it has just released a video app to take on YouTube.

The New York Times wrote about the launch of Facebook’s platform:

Facebook…is inviting thousands of technology companies and programmers to contribute features to its service. They can even make money from the sites users by doing so, and, at least for now, Facebook will not take a cut.
Some of the new features, demonstrated by software developers at a Facebook event on Thursday, will allow members to recommend and listen to music, insert Amazon book reviews onto their pages, play games and join charity drives, all without leaving the site.

Facebook is thinking big. In the parlance of its 23-year-old chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, the company is positioning itself as a social operating system for the Internet. It wants to sit at the center of its users online lives in the same way that Windows dominates their experience on a PC.

Dan Farber puts the announcements in a broader context:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls this latest interation of the service a social utility, which is an apt term.

Its a utility in terms of a tool for the 24 million Facebook users, but it also reflects Facebooks desire to become a utility, like an power company, in which potentially billions of people use the service in their personal and professional lives. Facebook, MySpace, and other growing colonies of linked communities with semi-permeable walls represent the rise of the social Web and Web utility companies.

Zuckerberg describes the Facebook core function that the new third-party applications can tap into as a social graph, the network of connections and relationships between people on the service.

Tomorrow: The Platform (continued)

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.