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why facebook is unlike anything we’ve seen before

by Jonathan Poma

08-20-10
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As I sit here and write this post, it’s been a crazy week in the digital world. Come to think of it, it’s been a crazy month...a crazy summer...a crazy year...ahhh, I digress.

As I’m sure you’re aware (I make that assumption because you are reading this blog), Facebook announced and released “Places” this week — yesterday, actually. If you follow the industry at all, this has been a long time coming. Nevertheless, this is facebook’s entrance cannonball (from the high-dive) into the location space.

I’ve already heard all kinds of things about how “this is going to kill foursquare” and “Yelp’s in trouble” and...blah blah blah, but that’s not what I want to write about.

Foursquare is growing like a weed to the tune of roughly three million users. Gowalla is the consensus #2 player in the industry, and they’re just under 400,000 users. Despite some great national partnerships on both counts, neither has really reached mainstream in terms of awareness, let alone acceptance.

So...here’s the thing:

Facebook is in a place unlike anyone before them. Facebook isn’t a search giant like Google and they’re not a shopping giant like Amazon. Rather, Facebook is a one-stop destination for its visitors to consume what they want to consume and interact with whom they want to interact. More than that, Facebook is a change agent:

Facebook is well on it’s way to well over $1.2 billion (BILLION...that’s nine zeros) in revenue. They are in such a strong position that they acquire whole companies just for their talent — Facebook is assembling the most diverse, forward thinking, intelligent team imaginable. You’re not a success when you’re on facebook’s radar...because EVERYONE is on their radar. There hasn’t been a startup making noise of any kind in the last 24 months that Facebook hasn’t been aware of. That said, it’s fair to say that you’ve made it when Facebook implements your core functionality into their own product.

First, Twitter knew they “made it” when Facebook implemented the News Feed, “@” mentions and all.
Then, Aardvark and Quora knew they “made it” when Facebook announced Questions.
and now...foursquare know’s they’ve “made it” because Facebook has announced Places.

I don’t say those things to badmouth Facebook — I say those things in awe of Facebook. I marvel at their agility. They’re not set in their ways, they’re not afraid to fail, and they’ve got more money than they could EVER spend and they can pivot on a dime — all the while maintaining commitment to an overarching vision and a dedication to their culture.

Up until this week, they’ve only been on the web. As of yesterday, with the announcement of places, they’re in the real world. They’ve taken a market with unlimited potential, validated by both success and competition of players like Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt, and they’ve shifted the paradigm. It wasn’t but two weeks ago that I published this tweet, and the ability of facebook to expose emerging trends to an enormous audience is exactly why. Facebook, and this is part of the reason I’m in awe of them, continually pushes the envelope, bringing new trends (what’s next) to the mainstream...to mass audiences...exponentially faster than anyone else could dream of.

I’ve tried and tried to get my “non-digital” friends to use fourquare and/or gowalla for the last eighteen monts and I’ve received nothing but ridicule in return and so i realize that, sometimes, no matter how great the reason, people are just too set in their ways to adopt change — unless, of course, you force them to.

For that, I simply say…Thanks, Facebook. I don’t care what anyone else says about you, I think you’re doing great things.

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