With talk of a Facebook Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the near future and rumours of the Facebook community showing signs of plateauing, what are the developments that are we likely to see in the social network’s functionality?
1) Improved chat
Microsoft’s purchase of Skype earlier this year is a clear indication that there is an increased appetite to push video into social media applications. Facebook’s approach to creating a central messaging hub, with its email and chat services integrated into one messaging platform, naturally poses the question about when video functionality will be introduced.
There are already a number of video conferencing apps available that demonstrate the capabilities of combining video functionality with social networking, and with most laptops now embedded with video capability and the increase in use of smart televisions (TVs) and tablet devices, video calling will only continue to grow in popularity.
Introducing this functionality is one of the more natural steps for Facebook to take and I expect it is only a matter of time before this is introduced.
2) Music and media
Spotify’s recent integration with Facebook perfectly demonstrates the natural fit between the music and media industries and social networking, and how both can benefit. Facebook’s unique ability to tune into users makes it a fantastic media platform for the future.
Moving forwards we can expect to see content such as movies and TV programmes being streamed, which will most likely expand into the living room through smart TVs. Combine this with social usage and Facebook is set to become a two-way social media channel platform.
Facebook officially launched its check-in service in August 2010 – a function that updates a user’s status and brings together others in the same location.
But if you look at the largely untapped potential behind this service there are a number of things it can do – from bringing together and connecting people in the same location, to enabling businesses to target people in a particular area, all in real-time. This brings a whole new dimension to the check-in service, which both Facebook and its development partners are starting to get to grips with, so we can expect to see more exciting developments in the near future.
4) Social commerce
Perhaps one of the most obvious beneficiaries from the 750 million community of Facebook users is social commerce, however, Facebook is in a difficult space. The only advantage it can gain from any social commerce activity is via advertising or providing a platform for payment, analytics, user information and storefront functionality. Facebook could provide more intelligence to group or individual buying habits, allowing businesses to understand their consumer networks better and create more relevant and targeted advertising as a result.
We are not sure what Facebook will do in this area but know what it could do. The main challenge for Facebook will be to achieve the right balance to avoid negative perceptions from users.
5) Facebook intelligence
Facebook already employs an array of intelligent analytics and algorithms to provide search and relationship suggestions for users, such as the recently launched auto photo-tagging service, which utilises facial recognition. But where could Facebook go if it really started to make sense of what is going on in the wider community?
As we enter an era of web 3.0 and 4.0 generations making sense of the web, the community and conversations taking place will enable platforms like Facebook to add new levels of usefulness.
Products, brands, information and communities would be able to find you rather than you having to search for them. Facebook with intelligence would make the network even more powerful, and combined with knowledge and learning concepts, you would have a network that could aid knowledge expansionof individuals within the community.
Who really knows where Facebook will go next, but we can be confident that the platform will continue to grow in significance and usefulness to both its users and the wider community. At the moment Facebook enjoys a leading position in the social networking arena, with no significant challengers. Let’s hope that through its partnerships and own innovations that any future IPOs will not get in the way of this social revolution.