Facebook’s next frontiers
Facebook now has more registered users than the population of any nation in the world. With 900 million out of 1.3 billion registered users visiting every month, Facebook is one of the top 3 most visited websites.
Facebook’s success doesn’t just lie in its quality of services but collection various factors that are perfectly aligned — one of those factors is its visionary and inspiring co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook inherits the benevolent, eccentric, and innovative culture from Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook enjoys the impressive growth by constantly meeting if not exceeding the expectation of the people. It has maintained that by relentlessly trying to bring new things to the users. The challenge Facebook faces now is how to keep improving the user experience and at the same time keep innovating. It is not easy for Facebook to keep innovating new features and moreover not every innovation is accepted by users. To maintain the dominance, Facebook has two important frontiers to “win” — Browser and Mobile.
[image source: the guardian]
Although, the number of people accessing Facebook from mobile is increasing impressively, there is still large number of users who access Facebook from non-mobile devices using browser. Facebook provides superior user experience with all-in-one services for browser users. With more and more services are being added, the web page eventually becomes heavier in size and functionalities which will directly impact the performance of the application. To improve, Facebook can only improve the areas which it has control i.e their side of business — server side. So, what can facebook do to provide superior user experience at the client side?
In the past, whenever any technology has posed any restriction to facebook, Facebook has improvised them by tweaking it according to facebook’s needs for e.g. creating Facebook markup language (fbml), recently announced — Apollo NoSql, distributed storage system — Casandra, image storage system — Haystack, and reactjs (complete list https://code.facebook.com/projects/ andhttps://github.com/facebook). These and many such innovations will keep the performance high. But, if more freedom on browsers is offered to Facebook, it will open the floodgates of innovations from Facebook for users. It will be what gmail is to chrome browser, Facebook to its own browser.
FACEBOOK HAS A PERFECT REASON TO HAVE ITS OWN BROWSER.
A bowser designed to render Facebook services in the best possible way. [To put it mildly] Facebook has decent resources — financial, human, and infrastructure to venture into its own browser. They also have hired executives who have an experienced of developing browser in the past.
In traditional industryies, getting one browser would be considered DOWNSTREAM INTEGRATION. Facebook browser will have inbuilt and enhanced security, faster, reliable and better rendering of features, Facebook offline with better data cache and asynchronies posts, efficient and ethical (as per Facebook standard) retargeting ads to generate revenue, inject sponsored feeds, payments, and many more. The limited flexibility in mobile devices can be offset with higher functionality which will have more avenues for generating revenue. More importantly, This option will motivate people to access the app from non-mobile devices.
Facebook team is not only innovative but also quite practical and aggressive as well. Recent facebook shopping list (Whatsapp, Instagram) confirms that they want to grow inorganically wherever they either failed to capture the market, or see potential. Quite clearly Facebook is not ignoring the growing trend of mobile use. Facebook is keeping up the pace of mobile growth by providing Facebook services on mobile. Their multi-app strategy with mobile apps such as whatsapp, Instagram, messenger, papers, groups, keep the users engaged.
However, Facebook has not enjoyed the freedom to enrich user experience because Facebook is restricted to respect the guidelines of mobile operating system.
Moreover, in the 3rd quarter of 2014, Facebook mobile users grew from 399 million to 456 million i.e. 14.2% increase, whereas the revenue increase from 1.07 billion to 1.12 billion i.e. 5.9% increase. Increase in the mobile traffic is not reflecting increase in revenue proportionally.
Multi app strategy is the need of an hour for Facebook. With so many feature from a single app would lead to poor user experience. Additionally single purpose apps are light weight, consume less resources and hence are efficient. To fit the pieces of the puzzle into the board, Facebook needs a Mobile Operating System that Facebook has nearly complete control over to freely innovate. iOS is not open source hence won’t allow any outsiders to “suggest” any changes, and although Android is open source but at some level google has become competitor to Facebook. Given the history (Microsoft is one of the investors in Facebook) and strong association it has with Microsoft, it would be natural for FACEBOOK TO “ADOPT” WINDOWS PHONE. For that to happen, Microsoft should (as mentioned in my previous article — What should Microsoft do to save Windows Phone?) elevate Windows Phone to Open Source. It’s a win-win situation for both. Microsoft gets a partner who is extremely popular and Facebook gets a good operating system.
Why Facebook needs a Mobile Operating System?
Once facebook has control over an operating system, then it can look at improving app to utilise Windows Phone’s functions better.
- Freedom to integrate Facebook with other apps deeper and better
- Improve user experience (Facebook can integrate text message with whatsapp messages)
- Facebook music integration with Phone music
- Facebook apps integration for e.g. Glassdoor
- Games synchronisation (candy crush played on Facebook and on phone will reconcile)
- Group post and group chats
- Location based posts, ads, friends around
- Events integrate with mobile calendar
In technology, creators always try to be on the top of things and keep creative juice flowing in the company all the time. Above mentioned are the two frontiers which will offer immense opportunities for Facebook to innovate.
Following are few additional innovative ideas Facebook can look at:
1. Facebook page to be enabled to be associated with domain name. This will help small businesses to have single page on Facebook that can be viewed from Facebook as Facebook page or assigned domain and becomes a website.
2. Facebook has developed the trust among its users. Users have purchased virtual currency for Facebook games such as farmvilla. Facebook should look at getting into payments.
3. Facebook platform to share digital content i.e. lending or borrowing books, money, songs