Facebook’s Future Just Took a Turn

Facebook’s CEO announced yesterday that his site was going to become the Internet’s Social Operating System. His vision is much grander than Myspace, which is the current #1 social networking site.

Myspace is content with simply being a social network, and its strategy – so far – has paid off. But Facebook wants to become a hub of all Internet-based social applications. This puts it at direct odds with Myspace, which has been doing whatever it could in its power to smash third party companies from piggy backing on its success (like when they tried to disable YouTube links).

Facebook has a dedicated section (http://www.Facebook.com/apps/) that shows a admirably large list of third party applications built on the Facebook API. There are widgets for Hot or Not, stocks, music players, web based chat, games, Firefox toolbars, and even web widgets that sit on your site.

Over all, if this plan succeeds, Facebook cements itself as a web standard. This is a much more stable (and thus, lucrative) position than Myspace’s, which is constantly threatened every day by all of the other me-too startups. On the other hand, any site that builds its entire existence on Facebook can’t and won’t stop relying on or promoting Facebook.

Zuckerberg admits that with just some 85 engineers, they can’t possibly compete with thousands of developers creating social applications. The problem with little startups is that they don’t have the distribution that Facebook does. That’s why Facebook’s opening its doors to let coders work within its platform. Zuckerberg admits it’s a similar concept Microsoft did with is operating system.

What’s most interesting is what we should expect to see next: now that this is announced, we should start seeing competing social networks (not Myspace) open up as well. This is the begriming of a great era in social networking. In the long term, all social network API’s would be the same, making third party plugging development easier. That would then be the start of a unified social networking experience, which I hope one day leads to a more consolidated online identity management experience (updating one site updates them all).

Overall, I am impressed with Zuckerberg’s vision. He may be on to something here and he’s clearly thinking outside of the current “box.”

Maybe if I wasn’t so busy with work, I’d be creating a bunch of Facebook applications right now. I have a cool idea for one, and maybe I’ll write it when I have some time. 🙂