Although many of the innovators that joined Facebook in its early years are now moving to new, more personal platforms, the network itself remains one of the richest in the world. Of course, in value and other business achievements, but most of all in content.
Think of all the articles, images, opinions and behaviour shared. In comparison to other giants like Twitter or Instagram, the Facebook content is not limited to a certain amount of characters or content type, making the it rich and complete.
In my eyes, Facebook’s biggest deficit, however, is its temporary aspect. This makes the value of its content almost worthless. So even though the network itself is rich (it holds much and many types of content), the value of the content is low, because it is only viewed for a very limited time. A colleague of mine once referred to the content as ‘wet snow’, a perfect metaphor.
Change is coming
Today, Facebook announced a small change that could have large impact: the save button that enables you to read-it-later. This much relates to the Paper app, a news app launched by Facebook in February 2014.
So why is this new Save feature game changing? Because it is the first step towards changing the wet snow to dry snow. Having the ability to save content and review it again in a later stage, e.g. when you are in the occasion to take a good look at something, means a bigger demand for more in-depth content. My guess is we might slowly see an increase of more complex and longer content, created for lasting value.
If this is the first step, what’s next?
In the past years, Facebook has spend a lot of time monetizing the platform and creating cool features and apps that could keep the innovators satisfied. But it doesn’t seem to have put a lot of effort in keeping pace with a world where social media is embedded in our DNA. Think of how Facebook has enabled the world to unify and democratize. Wisdom of the crowd and crowdsourcing are now two accepted terms. But even Facebook needs to climb to a new level where it can facilitate these matured uses and demands.
In my opinion this for a large part depends on the search functionality. The focus has always been on finding new friends. Which is cool in order to grow the network, but now that most people are already largely networked, the focus will shift to content.
If you would have the ability to search for content in relation to your peers, the networks changes from a casual friendzone to a cool library. Social graph was a small step, but the crowd needs a lot more information from Facebook to be able to change all these loose shouts into a solid opinion. I, by all means, would be fascinated by how my friends react to a certain video, article or topic. And not just the one that has been posted today by a common friend, but also in a broader context.
Semantic web, Web of data
A solid Social Search functionality would also open up new doors for Facebook. Isn’t it weird that Facebook and its advertisers know all these behavioural details about you that you don’t even know or can view yourself? Even though your profile is quantified for commercial purposes, the ‘quantified self’ generated by your digital social life isn’t yet seen as ‘content’ by Facebook. Yes, it does try to figure out what posts or ads you would like to view, but any other context remains unintegrated.
With Social Search these quantified parameters can generate more context than maybe even Google can give, making Facebook far from lost. By increasing the user experience by creating depth, the value of the network could actually become much more than it has now.