I have to admit - the first time I heard about Facebook was sadly, when the Virginia Tech School shooting occurred April 16th, 2007. Not being part of the 16-25 year old ‘millennial’ generation, I had never heard of it before.
But as I listened to news (on television), reporters continued to reference this ‘virtual meeting place’ as the primary means by which students located their friends and worried family, wrote messages and eye witness accounts on super walls (a feature that lets users create, draw and share messages with each other). Sadly, some walls became student memorials, with friends writing words of remembrance and condolence and commiserating about the senselessness of the act.
For me, this was Facebook’s debut as a mainstream online tool that captured my imagination - I got it and I wanted to try it out. Up to this point, I thought social networking sites were for exchanging personal dating profiles, hooking up, or a way to locate like-minded people passionate about, say, digital photography or baking with Splenda.
For those of your just joining us, Facebook is the number one social utility in Canada that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. In less than a year, Facebook has become the most popular online social network – and Canada is now number 1 in the world for users.
According to the latest Ipsos-Reid survey, nearly two-thirds of 18-34 year olds have visited an online social network or community – and 55% of them set up a profile. Facebook has the largest share at 65%, followed by 20% on Classmates.com and 15% on MySpace. And we’re spending huge amounts of time there as well - an average of 5.9 hours a week. When you consider Canadians spend about 10 hours per week online, social networking activities accounts for a huge chunk of time.
Why Them? Why Now?
In a recent interview with TIME magazine, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, all of 23 years old (don’t you love it?), the new poster boy for the Millennial generation, attributes the explosive growth to the launch of Facebook Platform.
Borrowing a page from Microsoft’s Windows developer playbook, Facebook's platform enables anyone, anywhere, to build complete applications that you can choose to use. “The possibilities are endless,” he says... “For the first time we're allowing developers who don't work at Facebook to develop applications just as if they were. That's a big deal because it means that all developers have a new way of doing business if they choose to take advantage of it.”
And it’s not a coincidence Microsoft has an exclusive deal to sell advertising on the network and reach Facebook’s 30 million users. They get the power of this business model too. With the strategy in place, users will be introduced to a steady stream of services, features and content innovations.
I think it boils down to this key challenge – generate enough positive interest to keep the growth momentum going and continue to deliver quality content (sponsored and otherwise), useful online apps and services.
Otherwise, Facebook will become stale with users, who will no doubt move on to the next online widget that shines light in their eyes.
Facebook is fast becoming the new Internet jump off point for the millennial generation. And when this company gets its IPO together (assuming it keeps saying no thank you to suitors including Yahoo! (who offered $1 billion) and Viacom ($750 million), Mark Zuckerberg, 23, will be the newest member of the billion dollar club.
I wonder if he shaves yet?
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