Tim W opened his fridge door

or – A feature agnostic look at F8 2011; steps in the same direction

Another F8, another set of powerful new features, and yet I’m not surprised by any of them. I’m not saying I predicted them (I didn’t) but the announcements are typical of what I see as a clear pattern in Facebook’s evolution.

Without discussing specific features, the pattern of Facebook’s ‘progress’ typically adheres to these traits:

  1. More connections;
  2. Less friction;
  3. Deeper integration.

That’s Facebook marketing language. I interpret these traits follows:

  1. More data;
  2. Less opportunity for users to think;
  3. Placing Facebook at the centre of the Web.

Yes, I’m a cynic. Did you not know?

1. More connections, more data

You are the product. Increasing connections increases Facebook’s yield. The more demographic and behavioural data the company can collect, the more valuable and powerful they become. This is their business model. We know this.

I’m comfortable with the arrangement, because I feel as though I’m in control. However, the data from others is just getting too noisy for my liking. The new Graph connections (compounded by the following point) could result in realtime information overload. Is there any limit to what can be connected? “Tim W opened his fridge door”.

2. Less friction, less thinking

This is where Facebook excel. Their subtle UI changes over the years are quite ingenious. Adding your face next to a comment form below every item encourages us to contribute more. Increasing our engagement while increasing their yield. I bet it was a very successful tweak.

I noted today that the new Guardian app doesn’t have the standard permissions dialogue explaining that the app will post to your wall. Instead the Connect button says “Log in and add to Timeline“. The user will give less thought to what data they are publishing.

This could be considered good UX (and it is) but it’s also another nudge towards absolute complacency.

3. Facebook at the centre of the Web

Of course this is a figurative centre – What I mean is that Facebook are increasingly a platform on which everything else is merely a ‘social app’ (in Zuckspeak). Facebook define themselves as THE social layer of the Web, much as the Web is THE media layer of the Internet.

So, if everything on the web were social, then Facebook would be everything, right? Zuckerberg said at F8 that some things, such as Healthcare and Finance, would not be social “for a while”. That man has goals.

Prophesying aside, the fact that today major brands advertise their Facebook page on television rather than try to drive traffic to their own URLs demonstrates how effectively Facebook have manoeuvred themselves into this position over the past few years.

This is a powerful position to be in. Fortunately there is competition. Facebook will have to fight Google for the centre of the web. That’s a topic for another post. It’s going to be an interesting couple of years ahead.