How Facebook Explains the (Online) World

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Welcome to the Internet. It’s now called Facebook.

This week Facebook made a series of announcements – a “life” timeline, streaming movies and music, doing rather than “liking” and the ability to group friends into categories just to name a few of the changes. Facebook has finally transformed itself into a customized and personalized replacement for the Internet.

I’ll explain replacement in a moment.

This, of course, is the direction Facebook has been moving in for the last couple of years.  Facebook currently accounts for 10 percent of all Internet traffic (Google is at 7 percent), according to Experian Hitwise, a company that measures Internet traffic.

This is the number that is important to Facebook and the recent changes are designed to increase it.  That’s why most of the Facebook announcements are about bolstering passive use of the platform – a place to watch movies, listen to music and read news articles. There’s now no need now to leave Facebook to do these activities.

And that’s the key. Facebook is moving away from the idea of users creating their own content and pushing users toward consuming content. It isn’t a design flaw that you now have to click a button to launch the ability to write a status update. Facebook doesn’t really care if you’re contributing content – just as long as you’re consuming it.

As Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said: “”You don’t have to like a book, you can just read a book.”

This is an enormous shift and one that we won’t fully grasp for a while yet.  But basically the idea of the web as a vast universe that we surf and visit is disappearing. That “web” – a wild and often chaotic collection of websites – was a place we accessed through portals like Yahoo! or search engines like Google. Those services gave us a base of operations from which to explore the web – and tools to help us organize and find things there.

Facebook replaces this model. Instead of heading out onto the web – the web is being delivered to us on Facebook – filtered not by algorithms, but by friends, family and acquaintances. We can still get all the web content we want, but there’s no need go out and find it. We can play games, watch movies, make phone calls, message each other and read books and articles without leaving the comfortable and personalize confines of Facebook.

Allow me to use an analogy to better explain. Think of pizza.

Surfing the internet would be similar to driving your car down the freeway searching for a pizza place. All you would know about the restaurants you came upon would be their signs. You might stop at one and discover that it didn’t even sell pizza. You might stop at another and find that they only serve deep-dish pizza and you want thin crust.  Eventually, you would find a place that served the type of pizza you wanted.  Hopefully, you liked it.

Facebook is similar to having a pizza place recommended to you by your friends (because who knows your taste in pizza better than those close to you?). And rather than drive to this pizza place, it delivers a pie right to your door – cooked to order.

Home delivered and made just for you.

Which option are you going to choose?


Experian Hitwise

CNET article “Facebook’s Colonization of the Web Gains Steam”

Washington Post: “Facebook Timeline: A Year Book for your Life”

2 Responses to “How Facebook Explains the (Online) World”

  1. Damn that was a good summary. Concise.

  2. That’s what happens when you write blog posts when you’re hungry…

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