Developer conferences, typically, are serious business. Apple
All true, Steve. Plenty of Facebookers are hooked on Scrabulous, or sharing music via iLike, or are chatting up the latest flicks via dozens of movie groups. For me, Facebook whets my appetite for Dilbert cartoons and quotes from syndicated TV series The West Wing. But I also use the site as a business tool.
I'm not alone: Facebook says f8 is sold out. Planned topics include building a business via Facebook, a pitch not unlike what we've heard from eBay
Dive in, the water's green
Pool? Make that a puddle. Giant Interactive
Add it all up and there's at least $100 million flowing into the Web's Chatty Cathys, which is both encouraging and troubling. The good news? Networks are as varied as the people that inhabit them. Thus, there should be plenty of room for specialized groups.
The bad? Excess money usually creates a bubble and it's very likely that's what we have here. I've already witnessed Facebook users express social fatigue via their status bars. One semi-serious and darkly humorous blog speaks of social networking rehab, as if Twitter is heroin's digital twin.
But does that mean that Facebook, as a business, is worthless, more toy than tool? Hardly. Even if businesses have yet to figure out exactly how to use social networking, the technology is already providing value. Here's how.
Social networking is a proving ground for cloud computing. Facebook is a lightweight cloud-computing platform not entirely unlike salesforce.com
(NYSE:CRM). Consider Facebook Chat. Log into your page and the system tells you who's online and available to talk. Why should you care? Users like Web software: Apple's iPhone App Store facilitated 10 million downloads during its opening weekend.
Social networks can lead to high levels of customer engagement. When Iron Man director Jon Favreau sought to engage his customers -- moviegoers and comics fans -- he opted for MySpace over traditional media. Fans loved it; Marvel Entertainment
(NYSE:MVL), not so much. And yet the director is now signed on for IM2.
- Social networks foster network effects. Common wisdom says that the size of your network increases your opportunity to win business or land a better gig. A billion-dollar valuation for LinkedIn lends truth to this maxim. Think of what happens when personal and business networks intersect. More business gets done, right? That's what happened recently when odmonk, a participant in our Foolish social network, Motley Fool CAPS, landed a job based on skills he learned while tooling around the service.
Still, odmonk's story is rare. And Facebook, purported to be worth more than $15 billion, expects just $350 million in 2008 revenue. Thus Hamm's assertion: Social networking isn't the realm of the business elite.
And yet, in more than 15 years of following tech, I've come to realize that Steve Ballmer is right: developers rule. They're the brains behind the code that enables business to get done. Nowadays, they're writing for the Web and the so-called "toys" that reside there. Toys like, you know, Facebook.