“To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Facebook’s new mission statement rocks.

Communities are living organisms, buildings are just the shell

As someone who’s been a close observer of the Facebook project for the past decade, both as a developer, entrepreneur and as an advocate through the London Facebook developer garage, I’m thrilled the focus has moved to community.

There are many strengths to community but I want to pick one:

Community is what happens when people organise for the benefit of others.

With a community it’s clear who’s included — and that means there will be weaker and stronger members, and they can see who each other is. In a healthy community the stronger can support the weaker.

A connected world without community, (to paraphrase the old mission statement) such as a bunch of individuals with a list of friends, allows marginalised people to fall through the cracks in the friend graph.

Unless you’re friends with the right clique, you’re simply cut out of the conversation.

I’ve always felt this lack of attention to the importance of organised community was a core weakness of the original Facebook vision, and I’m thrilled it’s gone, replaced by a focus instead on the importance of groups.

What can we expect now from Facebook?

For one I hope to see Facebook groups become a platform in themselves — that means group managers can run apps on top of their group —they can introduce new tools for buying and selling, auctions, car sharing, event organising, minute taking, success tracking and clothes swapping to name but a few. There will be many more apps built than we can dream of here, but these apps will allow community organisers to bring a new vibrancy to Facebook groups.

For myself, I’m hoping I’ll spend more time in the Facebook group communities I care about and less time paging down on my self selected friend news feed. That’s because the groups will map to the real world communities I participate and contribute to on a daily basis: families, church groups, tennis club, residents association, charities, industry associations and even a 600 year old guild. I may even read content from people I disagree with! How refreshing will that be!

Without getting too meta on you. (Ok a bit meta) I think it is communities that are the living fabric of our complex, interwoven, vibrant society. Too often people mistake the shell for the snail, the buildings for the group of people inside. An organised community is the snail not in the shell. [Note to readers — really need a better metaphor here, please suggest one!]

Anyway, very pleased Facebook is applying its technical muscle to providing tools and services to communities. Looking forward to a well spring of innovation.