Facebook’s “Like” button. Does not look like much does it?
This little feature is one of the catalysts that propelled Facebook to verb-like (as in ‘I’ll Facebook him’) prominence on the internet today. Not convinced? Hear me out.
Sometime in 2008, many users were lamenting that Facebook was a “walled garden”, that it did not allow interaction beyond its monochromatic blue boarders. Conventional wisdom in the technology industry was that, and it stands true yet, that walled garden type technology will eventually see their users leave and seek greener pastures.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and his team were well aware of the problems that walled garden technologies present, but they did not seek to tear down those walls. Oh no, that was way too much trouble. Instead in Febuary 2009, they simply expanded those walls and invited the rest of the Web to come in and play.
They introduced the “Like” feature.
That was an ingenious move, from there onward, users will be interacting with Facebook even when you are not at Facebook.com. To web developers, this was a win-win. For years and years, they have wrecked their brains thinking up ways to make their content more “social”, fully knowing that it was a sure way to create traffic (comments on blog posts and web forums literally operate on this principle). Suddenly, they could potentially have the entire Facebook population within their reach.
Now, we all know that Facebook was not the first to create plug-ins like these. Yahoo, Twitter and Digg have tried, with only budging success. What makes the idea tick was the staggering growth of Facebook. It currently has 500 million users, and that number is growing at a faster and faster rate. If we were to look at a graph plotting Facebook’s user population against time, it would resemble that of a nuclear chain reaction before reaching critical mass (Fig. 33.3).
One of the founding principles of Facebook was to be useful, and in this respect, they have fulfilled it through and through. Not only have they enabled web developers to extend their reach, they have also allowed themselves to easily track user preferences, which is key to advertising. It is their ability to sift out such win-wins that will surely drive the company to further success.
At the point of writing, Google is still the undisputed king of the internet search and information profiling. Google, the one that everyone turns to in order to make sense of diarrhea of information that is the internet. Will Facebook overtake Google in that respect? It is not unlikely, but it would take a lot of effort on Facebook’s part, but when they do, it would be with astonishing, even horrifying personal accuracy.
What Facebook has succeeded in doing thus far is priming itself to be as ubiquitous and essential as Google, which in itself is no mean feat. The world’s biggest social network won’t be going away, and you, the Facebook user, are going to see to that, one “Like” at a time.