Nov 11, 2009
I recently had a conversation with a few friends that I know through the Python community. These are people who I respect a great deal, and look to for advice and insight when it comes to web development. During the course of this conversation, the subject of Facebook came up. What I wasn't expecting at all was that a large number of them said that they have no interest in Facebook, and quite a few of them proudly didn't even have accounts.
To put it bluntly, I believe that ignorance of Facebook is a major handicap today, both for developers and for entrepreneurs, and people who are not paying attention to it are burying their head in the sand.
Facebook has gotten to a point where it's the destination where the most time is spent online. It gets an estimated 260 billion (that's a B on that number) pageviews per month. In a single week, new properties are able to garner 8.6 million new active users. Sites which implement Facebook Connect typically see a 1.3x-2x boost in registrations. Companies building on Facebook's platform are being sold for 400 million dollars and are making 100 million dollars yearly. There are over 300 million active registered users. In other words, if you talk to a person that spends any time on the internet at all, they likely have a Facebook account. These numbers, by the way, are trending up and to the right--.
Take the word Facebook out of the above paragraph, and replace it with icanhazcheeseburger. Replace it with 4chan, or somethingawful, or barbie, or anything. No matter what you replace as the company name, it doesn't change the fact that those numbers are compelling enough to be irresponsible to ignore.
Let me be perfectly clear: I don't particularly enjoy using Facebook. I find its UI cluttered, its privacy controls confusing, and its content fairly trivial. From the development side, Facebook's APIs are clunky at best. I'm definitely not advocating that you should log in every day and love it. I don't. The mass populous, however, does. I'm simply advocating that you should at least have an account, log in every once in a while, and keep tabs on the announcements that they make for developers.
As people spend more and more time consuming and producing content inside of the Facebook ecosystem, it's going to be those who change and embrace it who succeed, and those who fail to adapt that stand to lose. Note that I said producing content "inside of the Facebook ecosystem", and not "inside Facebook", as Facebook has been making very strong pushes to extend the reach of its platform well outside of its destination site. You can augment your site to have people pushing content into Facebook from your own destination sites.
Facebook is willing to give you access to a person's information, to their entire social graph, and to allow your user to become an advocate of your site, all while making registration on your site as simple as one click. Sure, you may evaluate all of that as an option and decide that it's not important enough to implement, but surely it's an important enough option to warrant your cognizance.
Do I think that Facebook will be relevant in 10 years? Probably. I'm not willing to bet much on it. One thing you can be absolutely sure about though, is that if another service with this much power comes along, I'll have an account and be acutely aware of its developer resources.