Last week’s debut of the Facebook Timeline at the f8 conference in San Francisco left the internet littered with posts, updates, analyses, and speculations. We’ve heard about the “visual profile,” the “new way of sharing,” the “creep-tastic stalker’s paradise” and the impact this will have for advertisers. But I would argue that there is actually something much bigger at the heart of this shift. It signifies something so much more interesting and awesome and all-encompassing than the run-of-the-mill, something-to-complain-about feature updates. The Timeline brings us something truly profound: an intentional social-first integrated content platform powered by the open graph. In other words, the emergence of the metawebs.
I MEAN, THIS IS TOTALLY MIND-BLOWING, YOU GUYS.
Forget about the fact that a seamless, time-agnostic, searchable profile is a fantastic and fresh way to give people control over the total picture that they present to the world online. And yeah, enabling every person in the world to tell their life story in a simple, visually compelling way at varying levels of detail, that’s nice and everything.
Not to mention the fact that now every Facebook user will be more of a souped-up, super specific, hyper-textural psychographic profile than ever before. This will create better ways for brands to provide customer-centric products and services to the people who actually want them. (Say it with me, behavioral analytics nerds: WIN!)
But the real magic of the Timeline is that it provides a way to discover and explore new content from every category – music, literature, video, art, media, you name it – in a way that reflects the true non-linear nature of human decision making in a socially-networked, super-empowered world. How? Because Facebook built the social aspect of the site first. So any consumption of content is based on shared experiences across space and time, driven by connections to “people like me” naturally formed on trust and respect.
That’s the idea, at least. It seems like a pretty good one. With shared experience at the heart of Timeline’s transformation of Facebook, businesses of all nature will be lining up to be selected, embedded, opted-into, and shared in an environment that perpetuates exponential reach across a very engaged audience.
You know how everyone talks about “social media” disappearing in a couple of years, and the “era of the social enterprise”? This is the beginning. Here’s how it’s going to happen: social-first companies like Facebook will drive the social transformation of every business, product, and website we know by connecting them through all of our likes, our subscriptions, our services, our reviews, and our personal stories in an ever-unfolding hub of experience-sharing that will change the internet forever.
Facebook is by no means the only social-first brand and it isn’t likely to be the last. And there are different types of social-first brands as well. Whereas Facebook operates on a pull model, drawing people to a destination where experiences and sharing takes place, Twitter is a social-first brand that is push-based – content from around the web collected and exponentially redistributed via social connections. Facebook developers create apps that live IN Facebook, giving it a richer environment; Twitter developers create apps that bring the content OUT of Twitter, giving it new purpose and shape. Bets are on Tumblr, Foursquare and Skype to bring the next wave. Even Google+ could arguably succeed with a social-first model, if they can knock it off with the ho-hum me-toos and prove that they actually have a meaningful approach to social that suits their core business.
And that’s just the beginning. Social-first models are relevant to all kinds of users, industries, and businesses. Networks will continue to arise and build the right following to entice the right partners to serve the right purpose. These social-first platforms become more than websites or even platforms; they become hivesites, multi-layered and integrated such that every layer is tightly aligned with the relationships of the people they serve.
Site within site within app within platform, revolving around the relationships and shared experiences of real people. We’re getting our first look at the crossover to Web 3.0.
The metawebs are finally here.