Facebook is undoubtedly enjoying its fanbase, and with more and more people moving to facebook (even from networks such as Linkedin), it only strengthens the case. As of today it seems that Facebook has even gone after some of the popular bands to setup their pages in facebook so that profiles can be created as “fans” of these bands.
But we are nowhere close to what socially-networked applications can really do. It might hold the key to some of the most complex problems that we face as we enter into the digital lifestyle of instant messaging, emails (flooded with invitations from SN sites), and bugged down on the phones – with mobile phones even bringing work along us in vacations.
Truth be told, we are yet to even scratch the surface of what digital living really means. Let me get to the details:
Imagine ourselves to be the centre of the universe and everybody we know to be connected by different means. We either know people directly, or through someone else. Yep, its the same concept that Linkedin denotes as 1st, 2nd and third degree networks. The unfortunate thing is that, we keep making this definitions in everything that we use. From our email clients, to our telephone priorities to the list of people that we converse often and hence would like their names on top on our favorite IM clients. Relevance is key in digital communications and it has yet to hit our lives.
Now, its not as if people have been oblivious to this problem. There are companies such as Iotum which have been working on creating what they call a rules-engine, which routes calls depending on who is calling to whichever device. Its as simple as, if your mom calls she will reach you on your mobile phone even if you are in the middle of a meeting, and if your boss calls, he gets the voicemail no matter what. Well, that might not be your choice of settings, but you get the point. Everybody is given priorities and those priorities automatically shift by the amount of conversations that are carried out. Have frequent calls with someone and their priority level goes up a notch, so that instead of the voicemail, one gets to land in your landline phone. There is also another beauty to this sytem: the fact that there is one common number that is given and all your other numbers – mobile, landline, office and etc are only known to that system. As far as the whole world is concerned, you could change your mobile numbers a zillion times and they wouldnt notice. An update on the system and it will keep routing calls as if nothing ever flinched. One number for life, and that is all that you have to give anyone without prejudice. How important they are, and how and on which device… well the system will determine that. Now tell me who wouldnt love such a system! This is precisely what Grandcentral offers.
The problem ofcourse is that the “rules” and the relationships you have with those on the address book have to be defined by you – as of now. It wont be the case once social graphs start to make sense. And thats what Opensocial APIs are after. That’s where Google, if it plays its cards right will mint its money.
Take it one step forward, and the dream word that most used to throw in making a pitch to VCs in the 90s will come back to life – convergence and unified communications. Imagine a system that can manage your IM, emails, telephone calls, and will prioritize them as per the interactions you have with them and will give YOU the flexibility to manage communications, rather than 2000 unread mails staring right at your face each morning. That’s freedom indeed. That’s when you start having a glimpse at what digital communications really is all about!
So did Facebook start a trend of opening up its APIs for third party applications? Absolutely. Is it the end? Nope. We definitely need to go beyond that and the limitations that one has in having to develop more rich, flexible and feature-rich applications within the limited interface and the functionalities of facebook, simply isnt possible. The platform, simply wasnt built for it. Instead, take the relationships (A.k.a Social Graph, as defined by Brad Fitzpatrick) and make them available for anyone to access and develop on, and you have just unleashed a whole new world of interaction.