Facebook is fattening themselves up

24 08 2007

Facebook is the latest media darling, though for excellent reasons.

Ever since I joined the social networking group eighteen months ago (thanks to my job at USC — at that point, FB was only open to students and others with a “.edu” address) I immediately liked it.  It had none of the chaos of mySpace and, its combination of friends and groups, immediately made it a way for me to keep in contact with alumnae and some of the students I had been teaching with overseas.

The Mark Zuckerberg Production (as every Profile page announces) has gotten an amazing amount of traction among webbies (like Leo Laporte) ever since it opened itself up to all-comers, removing the school e-mail restriction.  Groups have blossomed for workplaces, neighborhoods and more.  At the same time, FB opened up its interface to allow third-party applications and a host of good and absurd applications have been written (with greater or lesser competency) including a pretty cool “Where I’ve Been” map application.

Facebook is looking better and better for a major dollar sale.  A multi-billion dollar major sale.

And now, this article in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.  Facebook it seems, has been quietly developing a new advertising system that would let marketers “target users with ads based on the massive amounts of information people reveal on the site about themselves.”

For anyone who couldn’t see this coming, I invite you to put your heads back into the sand.  Distribution is changing on a daily basis and no one has quite figured out how to monetize themselves.  People don’t seem to want to pay for content on the web (The New York Times just stopped charging for most of its archival content), so advertising is one of the few ways left for sites to pay their costs.  Facebook is not cheap to run, I’m sure, with servers and lawyers and all.  Somebody has to pay for it.

The one thing you can guarantee, is that once FB is sold to a major company, it’s only to get worse.  Once they move out of startup mode, into “keep the stockholders happy” mode, there will have to be more, not less, advertising.  And they are perfectly situated to monetize in that way because of everything that I (and the gazillion on Facebookers) have to them about ourselves.

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