I remember falling in love with Facebook when I first became a user: it was very easy to use, uncluttered and such an amazing time saver. Additionally, you can log in any morning after a night out and pictures will already be online: enough to jog your memory of the night before. Anyway, I’ve now fallen in love with Facebook again: this time as a developer.
Recently a friend and I have been exploring developing Facebook applications. The best known Facebook applications are things like Scrabulous, Texas Hold Em, Superwall. Things like that: pretty banal and useless. Some applications have even been downright annoying – I got so much spam from applications such as Likeness, Super Wall, Funwall, Flixster, etc. that I’ve uninstalled the applications.
Anyway: this was our problem. We run a website for a local educational establishment. What we’ve tried to do is to improve two-way communication between students and staff. So we did the traditional thing: we set up a online PHP community – forums, etc. Unfortunately, it never took off. Why? First of all, it’s another URL and login to remember, it needs to reach a critical mass before it even becomes useful and it’s not exactly the first thing you’ll think of doing when you’ve got a web browser open in front of you.
Facebook already has a critical mass and networks and relationships to represent existing acquaintances and so on. In many ways, we’ve even switched to using Facebook as a communication channel for all social events because so many more people will see information about it. It also means not needing to visit another website, not needing another login, etc.
The next stage of this has been to develop a Facebook application to disseminate information but also to extend Facebook’s features. Facebook is fantastic, but it won’t let you see a list of people in your classes for example. With a Facebook application, this can be developed. Additionally, Facebook relies on “peer-to-peer” to distribute information amongst people. Somebody posts a notice or a photo, and then “shares” it with their friends using their wall, messages, invites. The advantage of having a central application is that staff could write a notice which is then automatically disseminated to all students without this peer-to-peer step. And it saves the embarrassment of having your headteacher on your “friends list”!
Of course, I can see this being a fantastic tool for alumni too. And it probably won’t be long until we start offering people $200 on Texas Holdem for inviting their friends to a school open day…
Anyway, I’m rambling. The beauty was how easy it was to develop for Facebook. It is in many ways an extension of everything I wanted Geneone to be: a platform for developing a community. But what Facebook has is an amazing worldwide community already there with one central login system and hub.
I see Facebook as a way to hook into existing relationships and networks from the real life without having to try and reinvent the wheel and to attempt to replicate them.
I don’t hesitate to suggest that Facebook will overtake Google as the web’s hottest property either in the next two years. In fact, screw the rest of the internet. Let’s build everything into Facebook. I’ve never been so excited about Web 2.0.