Ever have one of those Ah-Ha! moments, only to rush to your computer in order to do a quick Google search so that you can find out if someone already came up with your seemingly brilliant idea? No? Well, uh, it just happened to me yet again.
This time I was just getting home from a very long day on campus at my beautiful home away from home, Florida Atlantic University and all of a sudden a simple question popped up in my head. It was this: What is the future of Facebook going to look like? In this case, while it appears that many people have been pondering this question, there are about as many different suggested answers as there are Justin Bieber fan pages.
I’m talking three, five even ten years out, which is a tremendous amount of time given the speed of web development. Three years ago we weren’t walking around using the word “Google” as a verb in everyday speech. Five years ago, nobody knew what an iPhone was, because it hadn’t been born yet. Ten years ago Facebook didn’t exist. This goes to show the speed of the web, not only in bringing us more information more efficiently than ever before, but in bringing us more innovation quicker than you can imagine.
So back to the question. What does the future of Facebook look like? Mulling this over for a few minutes, it dawned on me how we’re slowly moving away from the traditional sense of internet browsing. You know what I mean, where you sit in front of a desktop or laptop screen, open a web browser and navigate to a web page. In this sense, the computer can be thought of as the car, the browser is analogous to the roads and the web page is your destination.
Now, before we come back to the car and road analogy, think about what Facebook has been doing in recent months and what their mission is. They’ve been expanding outside the digital “box” of their web page (aka the “walled garden”), to the point that we can now click Facebook “Like” buttons on thousands of websites all over the place. Facebook is essentially putting its brand on individual sites. I’ve even installed the buttons on my site here, because it is certainly a very helpful marketing tool. Moreover, it is a great way for a company like Facebook to keep tabs on our browsing patterns and our preferences.
Now, if we take this idea of the Facebook concept beyond the walls of their website, then the next logical extension in my opinion would be the development of a Facebook designed web browser that rivals anything we’ve ever seen. Imagine taking the best minds from Mozilla’s Firefox project and Google’s Chrome project and letting them collaborate with the geniuses behind the Facebook Open Graph system. Facebook is in position to build the perfect browser with all the features of their site integrated within it. No longer will we actually visit the site facebook.com to check our profile or search for friends. Those actions will all take place directly within the browser, just as we can now Google something directly from our browser’s search box.
The reasoning for all of this is quite simple. We can see that traditional browsing is on the way out, so something needs to change. Facebook surely knows this, as they see more and more users accessing social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook through mobile apps and other means besides direct navigation from a traditional browser. The other main reason that a Facebook browser would be perfect revolves around their primary revenue stream: advertising. Already Facebook knows quite a good deal about us, based on what we “like” and what our profile says about us. Imagine if Facebook took it a step further and could see our browsing patterns all over the web, rather than just on the Facebook site and Facebook Open Graph partner sites. This would increase their ability to target adverting and thus increase their revenue.
So basically, what I’m saying is this: Get ready for a new era, an era where we interact on Facebook on a much more integrated level. The “car” and “road” of internet technology is slowly morphing into one united product. The line between “Facebook territory” and everything else will soon become blurred. Your browser will be your social media portal first and foremost. It’ll be your communications platform. It’ll be your Facebook wall. It’ll be your universal “like” button. Imagine all this on top of the superb browsing abilities of Firefox and Chrome. You will never again differentiate between browsing the web and browsing Facebook. A Facebook branded browser will serve both of those needs and more. It is very possible and it just may be here sooner than you know it.
After all, Forbes writer Reihan Salam recently pointed out that Facebook’s grand ambition is to “serve as the infrastructure that knits together the world’s information.” This quite lofty goal is only possible if the company controls a vast majority of the web, far beyond the scope of its website. Oh, or if that’s too difficult, just try controlling how we access the web, through that little portal we’ve come to call the internet browser.