In the Facebook Web

The web is slowly recovering from the repercussions to Facebook’s Friendfeed acquisition. I followed comment threads on posts from Friendfeed co-founder Paul Buchheit and many long-time users, among them famous blogger Robert Scoble who didn’t stop recommending the FF service since he joined. The emotionality of the responses is heartbreaking. If you have a brand you would be squirming with greed. Think, if Volkswagen discontinued the Golf. Only that Golf lovers wouldn’t have a common place to go for their mourning.
Stop: That’s exactly where Facebook wants to be. And that’s why they’re buying Friendfeed.
Is it worth $50m out of $500m revenue for Facebook? If it’s just for the functionality of threading comments, technically – yes. If you watch commenting multilogues on Friendfeed, you see immediately what the deal is about and why it makes sense for Facebook.
So what’s coming after the deal? Facebook has a target and it’s Google, or rather: our understanding of the web. Our current understanding of the web is Google-defined: a huge ressource of every piece of information in the world. Facebook is on the mission to turn that into a different web, the web of relationships. Where we are all persons, not anonymous users and searchers.
Advertisers, those guys who contribute 95% of revenues of all online business models that actually have revenues, will love the idea and switch as soon as Facebook can prove it has significant reach in major consumer segments and advertising formats that work.
If you look at FB ads today they’re hardly representative of what’s coming. Imagine a user who post on his Facebook wall how happy he is with his new Mercedes. Will all his friends then see Mercedes ads on their page? I believe Facebook is too smart to do that and got their fingers burned before with user flaming about breaches of privacy. So what they need is a low intrusion advertising format that still takes advantage of their knowledge about the user. Google style text ads wouldn’t be bad for starters. But where does it go from here?
Public press coverage (and blogs, e.g. Sue Imgrund’s really funny Extrawurst of the advertising industry show a growing aversion against ads that ‘understand me’. People’s deflectors are up against the psychological ad school of the last 30 or 40 years. Which means advertisers are thrown back to ‘speaking through the product’. Here’s where ends could be made to meet between what advertisers ask for and what Facebook can offer. Like, dropping small to-the-point text ads into my message stream and even my live conversations. Would I accept that? Probably, knowing that somebody has to pay for what I use. Would I click on them? Why not, if they’re relevant. Better yet if they’re entertaining, they might even give me something to talk about.


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