Just like traditional enterprise software will be phased out because it ignores innovations in the consumer space and the realities of how people actually work, Facebook won't be nearly as important or valuable as people think unless companies develop more business-oriented widgets that can run atop the fastest growing social network.
As the information explosion on the Web continues, we need portals that display a combination of both consumer and enterprise applications to the end-user. This will be out of necessity - the work and personal life continue to blur, whether we like it or not. Managing two separate technology diets and portals just doesn't make sense and wastes time.
As I posted to CIO's Advice & Opinion section recently, some start-up vendors and other more major companies, such as Google and Yahoo, have started to work on this problem, but it's curious that we haven't seen more of an effort from Facebook.
This is, after all, a company whose founder turned down US$1 billion based on the belief that Facebook would become the destination application for everyone on the Web. At the time, due to its increasing popularity and growing user base, I almost agreed with his bullishness. But now, I still have doubts, because any one-stop destination app would need to include tools to help people work.
Facebook's focus on the consumer (which is understandable from a monetary standpoint) might prevent them from being the ideal portal of the future.
I do, indeed, log onto my Facebook account everyday while at work. I can connect with sources and colleagues, and add some widgets that allow me to check news headlines or bookmarks from friends. But I don't have any business applications or hard data that appears on the main portal (or Facebook home page, in this case). I have to click on other tabs in my browser to access those critical applications.
Instead, my Facebook page gets filled with vampire and knighthood invitations (in other words, invitations to join toy widgets, which comprised the majority of the Facebook application directory, that I unfortunately don't have time for).
There are signs that Facebook sees the value in business applications on the platform, and they have by no means discouraged it. At an event in San Francisco last month, the manager of the Facebook platform hinted that he'd like to see more apps that would "help people do work."
But it might be enterprises themselves that need to embrace the Facebook platform and start building business-oriented widgets (if it is, indeed, the destination app of the future, which people might debate as well). As the technology improves, there will be ways to protect corporate data but also acknowledge that social networking platforms provide the perfect place to blend both consumer and enterprise applications for the end-user.
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