Let’s bring back the most successful software company of all times, Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft is known as the company that makes boatloads of money with Windows and Office, but that’s almost a consequence of a decision they made very early on their existence, and that’s to focus on empowering developers and ISVs (independent software vendors) to build the most powerful innovations on top of their backs. I’m sure Microsoft didn’t do this to be good Samaritans, but because it made business sense.
Facebook is missing this element. Most of the partnerships they establish are “inward” trying to improve the experience inside of Facebook, all great and dandy if they put similar or great efforts outwards. This is the equivalent of Microsoft Word supporting conversion to PDF, or embedding YouTube videos on documents, or anything that improves MS Word user experience. It’s inward. The Facebook Timeline feature is inward. The news feed is inward. The frictionless sharing is inward.
Now, of course I’m taking a biased view of what Facebook should focus on. I have my own startup tapping into the powerful social graph Facebook is in control off. As such, I wish Facebook would have empowered me even more (some might say given me more rope to hang myself) to more effectively build an awesome product. The number of innovations that will come out over the next 5-10 years will outshine anything that happened in this world over the last 30 years.
Let me be more specific about what I’d like to see from Facebook that would be the catalyst for an unbelievable number of innovations:
Facebook should be aiming to Google’s jugular right about now. They have the attention of brands and advertisers. They should launch their own version of Google Adsense. Publishers are very frustrated (probably for the last 4 years) with Google Adsense because of poor performance and ever lower CPCs. In addition, from experience, Adsense doesn’t play well with content behind a sign in screen. Facebook could today launch the
Raise your hand if you love PayPal! … Bueller? … I’m not talking about the goddamn awful UI, or incredibly slow search features, or the fact that PayPal is quite unfriendly to setup and install on your site. I biggest issue with PayPal is that it’s focused on their own success at converting a user than the success of their money-receiver users at getting paid. Here’s the thing about Facebook: They get how to build incredibly simple to integrate, nearly frictionless experiences. I can easily see how a Facebook Payment system would be fantastic, even enabling one-click (err, two-clicks to avoid a lawsuit) “Buy This” or “Subscribe Now” or whatever I want to do on my site. Most people are already logged in to Facebook all the time, and users don’t lose their FB password as often as people seem to lose their PayPal password.
Facebook Intelligent Open Graph
The Open Graph is awesome. I use it. It’s amazing I can get a few dozen data points from an individual by her just clicking “Join using Facebook Connect”. But I want more! I want one hundred or more new APIs from Facebook that enables me to do things I could never do own my own. Just is just the tip of the Iceberg, but I wish Facebook would provide a Facial recognition API (upload a picture and tell me who’s in it). Or an API that tells me about the user’s friends: who is a family member? Who are the people I went to college with? Who are the people I exchange more ‘likes’ with? Who are the people who live closest to me? Or, how about better Geo APIs? Popular destinations near a place? Places a user’s friends have been more often too? Facebook has not only a trove of data; it has a trove of technology that can be productized. Think of the transition that Amazon went through to provide all the Cloud Computing services. Facebook can provide a lot of interesting value. BTW, I’d pay!
The bottom line is pretty simple: the current strategy by Mark Zuckerberg is based on how much data he can get from you and how many hours a day you spend on Facebook.com. The first part is absolutely fine with me; the second part is where I’m challenging Mark to rethink. Think at how Facebook will be an indispensable component of thousands of new companies.