Facebook encourages users to share more by adding new apps
So Facebook has teamed with more than 60 partners to roll out apps that encourage users to tell their friends what they're doing: buying a merino wool scarf at Fab.com, researching a new travel destination on TripAdvisor, donating to a favorite charity on Causes or highlighting a new hobby on Pinterest.
The most popular social networking service is working with new applications so that users can publish their activities on their Facebook pages, Carl Sjogreen, director of platform products, said at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday night (and in a blog post).
Facebook is looking for new ways to get people to spend more time on the site and advertisers to spend more money reaching them. The activities will show up in users' Ticker, News Feed and Timeline.
The announcement comes as Facebook tees up a $100-billion initial public offering, the biggest the tech world has ever seen.
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor said in an interview that the new profile page called Timeline is increasingly becoming Facebook users' de facto online identity and that the new apps would help users personalize their profiles with just a few clicks. He said that expanding the Facebook platform would generate revenue in the "grand scheme" but that the announcement was not "overtly" about making money. He said Timeline has deepened users' relationship with Facebook and increased the amount of time users spend on the site.
Facebook is taking on Google, Apple and other technology giants in competition for eyeballs and ad dollars. It first launched the new wave of apps last year at the company's annual developer conference, allowing Spotify to show songs that users play and the Washington Post to display articles users read. At the time, Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the new apps created "real-time serendipity" beyond users just telling their friends they "like" something. The apps move beyond the "like" button which has become a universal means of expression on the Web but isn't adequate to communicate the full spectrum of human emotion and activity.
Millions are already using the apps, and Taylor said Facebook was "thrilled" with the response.
Now Facebook is opening up the platform to all developers (not just the 60 launching Wednesday) to help Facebook's users let their friends know when they go for a run or design a new outfit, Taylor said.
That not only gives users a way to express themselves and broadcast to their friends, it gives advertisers and marketers even more insight into their interests and habits. That in turn could give Facebook even more of an edge over Google's social network Google+, which has about 40 million users.
Some privacy advocates are concerned about Facebook's growing knowledge of its users and its reach into their lives.
"Facebook now has more ways to track and target us, as it enables dozens of apps designed to drive user and network behavior," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Facebook now has more profile information it can monetize on its massive base of consumers. While giving the appearance of greater privacy control, Facebook knows that for the most part the default will be that they and their business partners can easily harvest our data."
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: Facebook's Menlo Park campus Photo credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg