Three months ago, I published the media prediction that Facebook would “open” up its network by simply allowing people to let others follow them even if they were not friends. They are going two steps further… ReadWriteWeb reports Facebook’s announcement that they would open up their firehose of data to third party developers. Last week (via NY Times), Facebook also reported they will add user locational data to their streams, in order to match up with the mobile utility provided by Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter and other geolocational apps.
Facebook was founded on and until recently maintained the policy of preserving member privacy, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepared for these recent announcements to open membership data in January by essentially saying the age of privacy is over. Developers will soon build applications to use and distribute member data similar to those now based on the Twitter API. The real time web becomes amplified once Facebook status updates potentially become the leading communication currency based on its massive membership.
What’s next? The classic challenge of interoperability. Real time conversations should be addressable from any application, whether one is on Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz or Foursquare. And of course, expect other networks like LinkedIn and MySpace to follow in line with the same network data opening strategems, or they will become isolated gardens that will eventually be ignored by users opting for a more universal real time conversation platform. New applications will evolve to thread these conversations together.
The opening up of geolocational data streams will spur adoption of hyperlocal applications providing useful community tools that were once the province of local newspapers and civic groups. Today, the techies are using Yelp and upcoming.com to review local businesses and publicize events. Facebook can accelerate the use of these applications beyond the tech crowd. Once Facebook members are exposed to and engaged in using applications that benefit them on a personal level – i.e., finding store coupons and one day sales, or searching for a nearby supplier of propane gas canisters – they will become loyal users.
Facebook’s impact on how data is shared will be powerful. Due to its sheer membership size, Facebook has captured a sizeable share of the general populace, and will introduce them to and educate them on using the social media through the applications that will be built around Facebook user data. It behooves Facebook to do so in order to fulfill their mission to create an advertising or marketing based revenue model based on massive daily use of social media.