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article imageFacebook Wants to Become Social Operating System

By Sarawanan Ravindran     May 24, 2007 in Internet
Facebook has announced partnerships with numerous companies to bring its large userbase a new set of toys to play with, including partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft and even YouTube.
Facebook is one of the most visited sites on the Net, and it has definitely garnered a lot of media attention. It began as a social networking site for college students, and now is on the monitor of many high schoolers, alumni and adults. It currently boasts an active user base of 24 million members and growing.
Now, Facebook has announced partnerships with numerous companies to bring its large userbase new tools and features. The announcement was made at the company's "f8" developer conference.
So how will Facebook coordinate partnerships with dozens of other companies for feature releases? Well, "Facebook Platform" is basically an API open to partners to develop new features for the site. By giving other companies access to the code and inner-workings of the site, they can begin building modules and tools for the community.
So far, there has been a lot of interest from third parties who want to develop for Facebook, including Microsoft, Amazon, Washington Post, Digg and others. Some of the upcoming features will include, for example, the option to add to Amazon's book or game reviews, or join a charity drive all from within Facebook.
Despite all the benefits that could come out of this partnership, there are also risks. One such possibility is: What happens if its user base doesn't like the changes (then again, Facebook users have already gotten over previous feature enhancements like news feeds and design changes)? A more serious issue is spam, which could potentially ruin Facebook's reputation as it has done with MySpace.
Features
»Video
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This will be one of the features that Facebook will do on its own (as its has done with pictures, thus becoming the most used photo application on the web). While YouTube is similar, it's not a direct competitor to a Facebook video upload because Facebook videos are supposed to be personal videos you want to share with friends.
The advantage of using Facebook for video instead of other services is the ability to "tag" (bookmark) your friends in videos (the same way users can tag friends in photos on the site). The maximum length of a video on Facebook is 10 minutes and the size is capped at 200MB. Users can, however, add as many videos as they wish.
The FAQs of the video service by Facebook is provided below on behalf of Mashables and scribd: [url=http://www.scribd.com/doc/81195/Video-FAQ-FINAL]http://www.scribd.com/doc/81195/Video-FAQ-FINAL
»Charity
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Another neat feature that has been added to Facebook is "Facebook for Causes," developed by Project Agape. This new service allows users to take donations on behalf of good causes or charities and recruit members.
This is a good step for charitable foundations, and will be a defining move as more and more of these groups begin to pop-up on Facebook. There are many worthy charities already on the site, so I see this feature taking a huge lead and pushing some action with the groups. The demographic of Facebook users is also younger, thus more likely to donate to charity.
It's going to be interesting to see exactly how this feature plays out.
»File Sharing and Storage
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In my opinion, this is a big one. It is especially beneficially to users still in school because this is, without a doubt, the best way to share notes. It will also be helpful to get those PowerPoint presentations done by students on the Internet, most importantly to study for exams.
Other than school purposes, this can be helpful for many other users who simply want to store personal files online while switching between computers. However, there are also risks that this may escalate into piracy itself, such as P2P apps.
»Lending Money
Something is odd, when you can set the interest rates that you offer your friends online. But regardless, this feature may be the help you need to keep track of the money friends have borrowed from you or that you owe them. I believe this feature may go past your friends and be available to your entire network.
I guess this could be a successful feature. However, how much can you really trust to give a person in your network a loan with the only obligation for payback being that it's recorded on Facebook? How well is that going to play out in court?
These are the features that really stick out of the pack right now. There will likely be more features added on a regular basis as the concept grows. Perhaps one day even DigitalJournal will be accessible through Facebook.
Further Reading:
- Mashable (here and here)
- Reuters
- TechCrunch (here and here)
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