Thursday, March 05, 2009

What Should Facebook Do

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

Facebook is in news today for wanting to catch up with Twitter. Facebook has the mass and the volume, but Twitter has the buzz and the momentum, something Facebook has plenty of. Facebook is a great site, but it could do with improvements.

(1) Do Not Become Twitter

Twitter has its place. Facebook has its place. Facebook would do itself a major disservice if it tried too hard to imitate Twitter. Twitter can not become Facebook. Facebook should not become Twitter.

On Twitter the emphasis is on real time, on 140 characters. On Facebook much more depth is possible. That depth is Facebook's competitive advantage. It should not let go. Instead it should enhance on that depth.

You go on Facebook to better organize your social reality, and to enhance that social reality. You go on Facebook to arrange to meet offline. That offline part is key. Facebook should make event planning seamless. It already does a good job.

(2) Existing Friends

The idea behind Facebook has been that you are only supposed to accept friend requests from people who are already your friends. It is supposed to be a walled garden. It errs on both sides. It does not do enough of it, it does too much of it.

You should be able to accept friend requests from everyone you know, but you don't want your boss to see the same side of you as your college roommate.

On the other hand, what's the point about so many interesting people being on Facebook if you can't make new friends on there? I was at almost 1500 friends and then Facebook went ahead and deleted my account. I got a new one that now has 500, almost all of which are people I know offline.

Friend: now that is a broad category. Facebook should introduce the concentric circles idea. Anybody should have the option to become your fan, but those fans should not see all those many aspects of you that your friends might. Fans should get a much more limited view. And close friends should see more than not so close friends. There should be a whole category called colleagues.

(3) Making New Friends On Facebook

I think that is probably the largest untapped potential of Facebook. Facebook should be a place where you go to meet people. But it has to be safe, and it has to be gradual. You should be able to explore shared interests and conversations for a long time without having to reveal your name or face.

The Unfacebook

Facebook could morph to become the leading dating site. But it should not do so by becoming like the other dating sites. Facebook can become a job site, a place you go to seek talent. Once you get that many people at one place online there are so many things you can do.

(4) Status Updates In Real Time

I believe they have already decided to do that. Good. About time. Here Facebook could really give Twitter a run for the money, especially if it not only does status updates in real time, and makes it URL friendly, but also does a good job of allowing people to search just the status updates.

(5) Allowing Celebrities To Mingle

If you had a million fans, what should your Facebook experience be like? I think people who end up with a large fan base on Facebook should have special features just for them. A million fans should be manageable because of Facebook. How exactly you would do that, I don't know, but I got a few ideas. Fans are not just after the celebrities they are after, they are also after each other. Make that happen. Celebrities should be able to interact with their fans. They should be able to "zoom in" to perhaps interacts one on one, to meet, arrange to meet.

(6) Deepening Friendships

Facebook should be one of the tools that allow you to become better friends with people you are already friends with.

(7) Facebook For Family

Maybe Facebook should help you build an inner core to your profile that only a few close people get to see. Perhaps status updates should be layered. Maybe you want one status feed for the eyes of your spouse only.

(8) Safety And Privacy

Those are paramount. Add all the features in the world, but if you botch these two, you are in bad shape. The idea is not to stop being a walled garden, but rather being many gardens, some more walled, some less, some out in the open.

(9) Photos, Videos, Links

Facebook totally took off with photos. I believe there are way more photos on Facebook than on Flickr, and that happened a long time ago. Flickr made a bad move: it started charging.

If Facebook wants to compete with Twitter, it needs to compete in the aggregation and sharing of links. Links are the number one action on Twitter. Make it easy for people to post, share, search.

(10) Status Stream

That has to be real time. I believe Facebook already did that. Good.

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