Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Long Term Plan



Recently, Facebook announced the creation and implementation of Facebook Messages, a service dedicated to keeping the user on Facebook even as they access their other online accounts. This will incorporate email, online chat, texts, etc. Facebook Messages is an attempt to create a streamlined one-source online social interaction program.

The point of the program is not to kill email. It’s much more insidious than that. Because it requires the creation of an @facebook.com email account, it uses email initially and then connects all other emails through this one venue, enabling the user to track all conversations he or she had online over the course of years. It enables the user to take all their email accounts—usually separated by use, and maintain them through one platform.

It also keeps the user on Facebook, even while using Gmail, Yahoo, etc.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said the idea came from conversations with teenagers—people who had email accounts but did not use them.

While it is easy to dismiss the inspiration from teenagers, one should not forget that Facebook found its success initially through use by college students only. The ease of connection and networking with peers made it an irresistible draw. The ability to remain in touch with all the people one had known but had gone other directions continues to make this service irresistible. High School reunions are planned on Facebook, as well as parties, family dinners, Christmas swaps, political rallies, etc.

Facebook now permeates all generations. Grandparents regularly interact with their grandchildren—the same children who will never know the squabble for control over the single land line in the house that their parents did. Children get their cell phones on their first day to school. A growing world culture towards continued and ever present instant communicability suggests that what Facebook Messages aims to do is an eventuality. The reality is that the online social component is not a fad, or a trend. It is an evolution of communication and social interaction.

When people complain of losing their job through Facebook, or having their privacy violated, they are merely casualties of that evolving culture—forming a new etiquette, a new right/wrong paradigm for online activity. For now there may be a stigma attached to those who would immediately sign up for the @facebook.com—professionals who wouldn’t hire, teachers who won’t take that seriously.

For now.

Consider a whole generation of high school students growing up together, all participating in the use of @facebook.com. It will be difficult to not hire all of them (not to mention any users who decide to just “opt” in). Zuckerberg’s plan is not reliant on specific targeting, but to shape the future Facebook culture and condition it to include this form of online interaction.

This movement may have begun with college students but now surges forward strongly with 500 million members. That is 1/16 of the world population all using the same service. That is a big enough chisel to shape the process of how things are done.

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