Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wake Me Up

Last week, I was driving to and from various meetings with the business news on the radio when I heard the story that Facebook had some secret "thing" to announce to the media.  Perhaps I'm jaded but I immediately recognized this as an attempt to emulate the mastery that Steve Jobs had regarding his relationship with the media, so I was curious but thought little more than that.

As you all know, the announcement really wasn't that exciting after all.  The concept behind Friend Search (not the official name, but one that sounds better than the official name: Graph Search) is a decent one.  But the main problem I have with it is that most people aren't using Facebook for posting information that is worth searching through for answers to your problems.  David Hersh phrased it very nicely in my interview with him in 2010:

"Rather than continuing down the path of becoming a place to share meaningful content with 'real' friends, the focus on status updates flowing through the news feed has, in my opinion, shifted the focus squarely from utility to entertainment."

A lot of professionals that I know avoid mixing work with Facebook because of the huge potential it has to be detrimental to their career.  Granted, simply behaving like adults would mitigate much of that risk. But until the Federal courts decide that demands by a potential employer for your login credentials is an invasion of privacy (especially if your Facebook content is viewable by a restricted audience since information that is available to the general public cancels a person's ability to claim privileges to the privacy of that information) the number of professionals hawking their talents on Facebook will be minimal relative to the total user base.

What we're left with to sift through for answers to life's most challenging problems is your friends' postings about their kid's day at school; links to music or other videos; or images that exist solely to display the text of some witty saying that isn't searchable in the first place because it's an image.  And I'm supposed to be able to solve world hunger via a lolcat?

It should be obvious that I considered this announcement to be a rather boring affair, and it isn't the first time that Facebook has let me down.  Would you pay them to allow a message to reach someone's Inbox?  "Not I," said the pig.  And it is my guess that the moment this feature is enabled and people like me start receiving spam from telemarketers, there will be a rather substantial exodus to other social media websites.  Maybe Instagram will finally get those users back who defected after they attempted to change their Terms of Service, eh?

Edit:  maybe that defection has already begun, according to an article in the WSJ.

All of this reminds me of the smart phone commercial where Apple is ridiculed as causing mind-blowing experiences simply because they moved the headphone jack to the bottom of the phone.  Since there is some truth to that commercial, perhaps Facebook is more closely emulating Apple than I first thought.

Disclaimer:  I have an iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad.

When Facebook productizes their platform so that corporations can use it internally a la Chatter then I'll find reason to rejoice.  I realize they aren't doing too badly from a financial perspective (ignoring, for the moment, the overhyped IPO and its impact on the stock price because they weren't literally printing their own money like many of those who bought those shares seemed, incredulously, to believe), but I can't help but wonder if the person steering the ship from a strategy perspective really is clueless on how to tap into the enormous potential this company has from a revenue generation perspective.  The answer to that, however, won't be known until the first anniversary of its IPO date (and subsequent release of the 10-K along with comments by the executive management team on future directions for the company).

Or maybe someone will take a break from posting their latest Paleo diet recipe to write the answer to that question on their wall so that I can find it with Friend Search.