We forget before there was Facebook, there was Friendster, there was MySpace, there were chatrooms, email and AIM. There will always be the threat of a smart person creating something infinitely better.
Here are the things a “New Facebook” social network would win with:
OpenID – We hate usernames and passwords. They’re really annoying, impossible to remember the more clever you are with them, and seem like a sketchy way of keeping your information safe. (Can’t someone just “hack it?”) Any identification alternative is what Facebook would say is their biggest threat. They are moving to become a “reiteration of the internet” through Facebook ID which other sites like Slideshare are using to “verify” who we are. This identification system isn’t just good for marketing, it’s good for security, it’s necessary for custom portals and personalized experiences across the web, television (Apple TV, etc.) and mobile. Create the ultimate ID and you own the web.
Search – Right now we as consumers are urging engines like Bing to become more social, to let us find content through our friends. All well and good but sometimes you just need to find something that none of your friends know any thing about. (Like tarsorrhaphy). Control the way people access the web, and you control the web. This is why competition between Google and Bing is so important, and why if Google could ever get Buzz to take off, it poses serious domination for Facebook. Google is what Facebook is afraid of.
Interest Networks – Facebook exists as a closed system functioning on exclusivity. I don’t use Facebook to meet new people outside of my network, meaning people I already know. When I’m looking to meet people sharing my interests or in my industry, I use LinkedIn or Twitter, or I’m redirected from blogs to a social profile after I find these people on outside networks. I was just talking about this in a #u30pro chat on Twitter, and today I saw David Armano, a person I have never met, but as a digital person look to for advice, posting this question. Right now I’m working on a scientific social community. Try to imagine being a researcher and using Facebook to find experts in your field. It’s near impossible to find them or verify them.
Social Content Curation – This is what I call services like Twitter and the new Mashable Follow, which have you “follow” people you know or in Twitter’s case, you’ve found through chats and hashtagged interests. You can see what they’re posting on and interested in. Facebook doesn’t give me enough relevant news content from my friends. (Just great music videos.) The reason we make fun of people on Twitter writing about their lunches is because it’s not relevant, and with the vast amount of content on the web, reading about someone’s lunch wastes our time. The result is I spend less time on Facebook as relationships and party pictures stop being “news”.
Social Ecommerce – Facebook has attempted to do ecommerce with I believe Pampers and other Facebook stores, but the attempts have been marginally successful at best. Amazon and Etsy, and other semi-social ecommerce providers continue to be extremely successful because they crowdsource from the entire web. My friends may not give enough relevant information for Amazon “suggestions” or create the product I love like Etsy.
Trust – Even Gawker got hacked and we can’t blame Facebook for accessing our information to sell ads. Why don’t we trust Mark? We give our bank account numbers to Paypal and Prosper, our birthdates to just about any site on the web, and our business cards to local prize drawings, so why are we so terrified what Facebook is doing with our baby pics? Facebook is a free service, which needs to generate revenue, which is does through ads, and we hate on them for it. Do we trust LinkedIn more because they generate money through Pro memberships and corporate pages? Ignoring the regulation which is petty and an ongoing battle as corporations find ways to skirt it, a site with a different revenue model could ensure trust.
Information Age II – The web was not created to connect people but to give open access to information. The internet evolved out of colleges needing to access shared information on multiple computers. Today the internet continues to function as our Encyclopedia, our experts, our Dictionaries, newspapers and textbooks. Facebook does not host the vast amount of content and resources necessary for this. Sites like Quora and Wikipedia, if they are able to integrate social components and provide the credentials necessary to verify the information posted, will be a true “reiteration of the world wide web”.
Comments?? Can you do me better? I dare you!