Zuckerberg announced today that he’s not going to make a phone…. This is fantastic news given the fact that they’ve really blown it in mobile over the last few years; but I think they’re still poised to win the day.
By all accounts, Facebook knows more about me than most of my close friends and family. They’ve built an amazing engine that collects data about things I like, songs I listen to, people I’m associated with, our interactions, our relationships and all of our contact info. They’ve done a lot of this by focusing on building a killer experience for my desktop computer and yet as announced today “mobile users are twice as likely to use Facebook 6 or 7 times/week.”
This is absolutely no surprise to me…. Back in 2008 I did a quick cross-reference of my friends who were using the Facebook for BlackBerry application (which at the time was the only mobile platform that had a Facebook app…..BlackBerry developers actually created it on behalf of Facebook) and the people who regularly contributed status updates to the Facebook platform. [Informally], I found that almost all of the people I enjoyed communicating with on Facebook were also BlackBerry users. BlackBerry had latched onto what was so great about Facebook, one-to-many communication, and brought it to mobile with instantaneous push notifications and on-demand photo uploads….a match made in heaven that has since been duplicated in the form of mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
So if Facebook was really made for mobile, why aren’t they OWNING our mobile phone’s basic functions?:
Contacts – duh….seems stupid right? You know a lot of people on Facebook, they put their phone numbers, addresses, email, birthdays and much more into Facebook. Why is it so hard to get to that content in your native address book? The original BlackBerry app did it….
Presence – Facebook’s utility emerged in the form of sharing status…they need to take it to the next level. Consider everything that your phone knows about you. When you’re in a phone call, when you’re in a meeting, when you’re texting someone else, when your phone is traveling faster than a walking pace, when the screen is off, when it’s charging. We need someone to develop a presence engine…Facebook is best positioned for this.
Messaging – Given the above….don’t you think the average text message could become just a little bit more dynamic and rich? Why are our text messages locked solely to our phones? Why can’t our phones auto reply for us when we’re in a meeting or driving? How is it really that difficult to send messages to multiple people and reply to everyone on the string??
Calendar – This one really puzzles me….my Mom and Aunts plan family Christmas through the Facebook calendar now but that appointment never shows up on my mobile phone!! There are a lot of ways the average person could benefit from a social calendar. Many have tried…someone needs to figure out a better way for my wife (and some day my kids) to plan together.
Camera – Instagram was a good start, but why can’t my camera intelligently recognize objects in my pictures….instantly tagging them (i.e. Erik & Stacey are by the Eiffel Tower) or directing me to useful info (hey, that barcode you have in your viewfinder leads to this website). Mobile cameras have come a long way, mostly stealing from their digital cousins. The cameras in our phones are connected to the INTERNET and Facebook has done nothing with that…(Google Goggles is a good start though)
App Stores/Commerce – Apple’s Genius is neat and Google’s starting to make recommendations in the Play Store, but Facebook is a content engine on steroids. Apply this intelligence to not only digital content purchases but help me when I’m in a store trying to match a shirt and tie or looking for a car….
I could go on….but there’s a theme here. Facebook has completely squandered the mobile space by simply building an app. That was cool when Facebook was just a place to share what “Erik is…” up to, but it’s proven to be so much more than that. If they’re going to succeed over the long term, they need to bust onto the Web 3.0 scene in a big way.
Make no mistake, Facebook SHOULD NOT have to create a phone…..in reality, that limits their reach. Instead of focusing on building yet another mobile operating system, they need to put their tail between their legs, walk into the office buildings in Cupertino, Mountain View and Redmond hoping that they can still join forces with the current winners. This will prove to be difficult given the large threat they pose but I would love to be a part of that negotiation.
Monetization? There’s a lot of value in putting the right offer in front of the right person at the right place at the right time and make it look natural (and it probably doesn’t look like the banner ads we’re all used to). The first step is having access to the customer…. We’ve shown Facebook that we’re willing to give them a long rope, should be interesting to see what they do with it.
UPDATE: Well holy crap!! I beat Tim Cook to the punch by just a day: http://www.insidefacebook.com/2012/09/12/facebook-integration-coming-to-iphone-and-itunes-app-store-next-week/