9/26/2007

MySpace, the bell tolls for thee

It comes as absolutely no surprise to me that Facebook has taken off in the way it has. I joined MySpace a couple of years ago despite the atrocious layout, primarily to advertise the fact I wrote books, rather than any deep desire to connect with complete strangers. Facebook, on the other hand, is a site where I link solely to people I know, or have at least some form of clear connection with - other writers, say. It looks better and, for now, it feels better. I know I'm not alone in this, because the only thing missing from MySpace on the increasingly rare occasions I visit it are some digital images of tumbleweed blowing across the screen. Although Facebook started out as a social networking site restricted to students, since it was opened up to all it's grown exponentially until it feels like it's just about ready to swallow the net:
In late May (2007), the company's 23-year-old CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, got up in front of several hundred journalists, analysts, and industry leaders in San Francisco at an event the company called F8 (think of it as "fate") to say that Facebook would no longer be just another social-networking site. Instead, he said, it aims to be the place where you can involve your friends in everything you do online. The company has 24 million members (less than half of whom are now in college), and it is adding about 150,000 a day. In effect, Facebook is now offering the opportunity for any company, Internet service, or software maker - anyone at all, really - to build services for its members.
In advance of the announcement, which had Silicon Valley buzzing, Zuckerberg and other executives spoke to Fortune about the strategy. "We want to make Facebook into something of an operating system so you can run full applications," Zuckerberg told me. He said Facebook is becoming a "platform," meaning a software environment where others can create their own services, much the way anyone can write programs for Microsoft's Windows operating system on PCs. Facebook, he explained, is a technology company, not a media one.
Around about this point, the word hubris might occur to the casual reader until you realise Microsoft's interest in Facebook would put the value of Zuckerberg's product at something like ten billion US dollars. Ten billion. And even if that eventually turns out to be hubris on Microsoft's part, are you surprised Zuckerberg (pictured above) is smiling?

One last point: look at Zuckerberg's face again. This is the face of a one-time student who's now worth billions. People think he wants to take over the internet. But I know what he really wants: zeppelins with death rays. And maybe a giant robot monkey. Yeah, definitely; ten billion dollars could buy a few giant robot monkeys. Will Zuckerberg be the first Web 2.0 billionaire to construct an undersea base manned by women in silver jumpsuits and seals that can fire harpoons? I, for one, certainly hope so.
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