Just fired up Facebook (while not procrastinating..:)..) and noticed Facebook chat is now available for me. Most people are probably going, "oh yay! Yet another IM tool" However this is a bigger deal than you might realize and in my opinion will be a major draw for facebook.
Why is it I have accounts with Skype, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Gizmo etc etc...?
Because I have different groups of friends in each.
So what is it that facebook has that none of these apps have?
My social network.
All those non-techy people who usually look at me with that quizzical smirk when I start talking twitter & RSS have, for whatever reason, been drawn to Facebook. Most are probably passive visitors. If someone posts something on their wall or sends them a message, then they receive an e-mail alert and consequently log in to Facebook to check it out. A few others are hooked on Scrabulous, Chess, some other weird app, or use it as their online photo album. Nevertheless, the fact that I can now chat with a lot of these people without having to poke them, message them or write on their wall is extremely attractive. Of course after the initial fad wears off many of these people will end up as someone who I just see online and never talk to, but the very fact that I now have the opportunity to engage in conversation with people who I haven't talked to in eons, and would never pick up the phone to chat with, is kind of cool. It will certainly add another dynamic to my procrastination!
If Facebook allows people to take advantage of the social demographic they have built within that environment they will have a very big future ahead of them. Unfortunately, I just haven't seen any strong indicators they are going to allow people and developers the flexibility they need to develop some truly exciting interactive and life streaming apps.
However, I'm reminded of the reach of my Facebook social network daily even among those I interact with on a regular basis. I often post a message to my personal twitter account, which automatically updates my Facebook status, and is usually about something that probably wouldn't come up in regular discussion with most of the people with whom I associate. Nevertheless, I almost always get some comment during the day referencing that message. Just today I had someone say: "so how ya feeling? Saw you had a couple of late nights marking there?". See how the language has changed? It is is no longer "I heard", but "I saw". As social networking moves beyond the techies and the youth and into the mainstream crowd who, when asked, would never have time for that techie stuff, even this asynchronous form of communication via twitter and micro blogging will allow for an unprecedented awareness of those around us.
I like to take the optimistic perspective of the socially interactive web (hey I didn't say social networking!) and truly believe in the potential of this technology to enrich our lives in both work and play.