The latest edition of Wired is carrying an extremely interesting article on Facebook and its plans to dominate the Internet, comparing it with Google. I think that albeit the comparison is fair, it is missing a third –probably more relevant-player: Microsoft.
We all know that the social network is pursuing the aim of putting the users’ social networks at the center of all they do online, and then try to monetize on top of that via highly effective marketing campaigns. We have also seen how that had to push back on both their Beacon initiative –injecting personalized advertising to users-, as well as on their attempt to change of terms of service to a perpetual ownership of user data. And we are probably all very aware that there is more to come. That’s why everybody these days compares Facebook and Google.
Having a huge user base, and sitting on tons of very personalized data is fine only if monetization is possible, and up until now it still remains to be seen how this will happen. Privacy issues seem to be simply too powerful.
But while Facebook’s efforts into highly targeted online advertising have received a lot of attention, their activities in the applications spaces have been less commented. The launch of Connect has allowed them to integrate more than 10.000 independent sites into the Facebook community. And just two months ago, it announced the Open Stream API. Both of the initiatives are a step towards becoming the platform for all personal interaction on the Internet. And this is indeed interesting. If Faacebook becomes the de facto platform for us users to place our data, and for third parties to develop applications that hook us to their sites, then Facebook may well become one of the gatekeepers of the Internet.
And we should not forget that gatekeepers normally have an extremely profitable business model. We’ve seen that for decades with Microsoft. So, will Facebook become the new Microsoft?