Facebook Opening Up Profiles to Search Engines

Facebook seems to be getting around to taking a play from MySpace.com’s play book by opening up their user’s profiles to search engines like Google.

Arguably, this isn’t new news, since we wrote about it here back in May, but in reality, Facebook has less pages indexed by Google today than they did in May. Three months ago, Facebook had 276,000 pages indexed by Google compared to MySpace’s 19,600,000. Three months later, Facebook has 102,000 indexed pages:

Facebook Pages in Google

compared to MySpace’s 23,700,000:

MySpace Pages in Google

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that a site with 23 million pages in Google’s index is going to get more free traffic from search than a site with one hundred thousand indexed pages.

As Om Malik explains it, Facebook’s plan is to make public profiles of their 18+ year old users available to search engines. This will cause millions of Facebook pages to rank high in search results for personal names. Since so little comes up on searches for most individual’s names, it seems likely that Facebook will begin to dominate search results for the names of their users almost overnight.

In fact, Facebook is better positioned to rank competitively for personal names than MySpace since Facebook users are MUCH more likely to use their first and last names in their profiles.

Is this a good thing? Yes, unless you don’t want to be found. Of course, is that’s the case you probably shouldn’t be publishing content under your own name anywhere on the web.

Facebook's Where I've Been Application Acquisition

It’s great to hear that the Where I’ve Been application on Facebook has been acquired by TripAdvisor.com. UPDATE: they have not been acquired.

Biggest Facebook App Acquisition Yet: TripAdvisor Acquires Where I’ve Been for Reported $3 Million

Just two months after asking, “I Have 250,000 Users, Now What?”, Craig Ulliott has an answer.

In what is by far the largest Facebook application acquisition to date, travel company TripAdvisor has reportedly acquired Where I’ve Been from Craig Ulliott for $3 million.

This as one of the first Facebook applications that I found useful. It’s such an easy way to track places I’ve visited with a slick interface.

Where I've Been

However, as Andy Beal from Marketing Pilgrim points out, it’s not something one visits every day to update, so how exactly will TripAdvisor get their money’s worth out of the application? Beal’s theory:

… it was certainly fun to try and recall all of the places that I have visited. But then what? I don’t ever really go back to it and I don’t think I’ve ever closely reviewed the places my friends have been either.

Still, with 2.3 million users, TripAdvisor will no doubt slap its brand name on it and be happy to reach a new audience.

I think branding could play a role, but the much bigger opportunity here comes from doing something with the data users have contributed to their Where I’ve Been maps. Knowing where someone’s been, where they’ve lived, and where they’d like to visit has to provide marketing opportunities beyond slapping a logo on the application.

Leveraging Facebook for Web Applications

VentureBeat has an interesting story explaining that some companies are seeing a spike in traffic to their sites due to their integration of their applications with the Facebook platform. For example, HotOrNot.com offers a Facebook interface for their site:

Surprise: Facebook apps may help grow home sites

The finding, reported by Quantcast, a service that tracks traffic trends for Web sites, suggests that sites failing to embrace Facebook may be missing out on potential growth.

For some, this is also encouraging evidence that Facebook’s platform, launched in May, isn’t necessarily weening users entirely off their own Web sites. While Facebook allows third-party sites to advertise on their applications on Facebook, many sites prefer to maintain control over their users’ experience, and are hesitant to trust Facebook’s promise that it will remain hands-off. Despite the pledge by Facebook’s executives that sites are free to make money on their apps within Facebook, its terms of service says Facebook can change its policy at any time.

To me, it seems like companies who can enable Facebook interfaces for their applications aren’t hurting themselves. They’re simply providing access to a larger audience who happens to prefer accessing applications through Facebook rather than on the open web.

In the ideal situation, data gathered through any interface such as Facebook will be treated the same by the application host, and improve the value of the application overall regardless of the interface used to get the data into the system.

This may not apply to all applications, but it seems like it should hold true for web applications that become more valuable as more people participate and contribute information such as HotOrNot, other dating sites, auction sites, wikis, etc.

I think we’ll see more businesses trying to decide whether they’ve better off launching as a Facebook application first, on on the web first with a quick follow-on Facebook interface.

Will Facebook Kill the Class Reunion?

Jules at floobergeist raises an interesting question about whether Facebook could lead to the end of class reunions.

If you’re continually in touch with your old classmates and up to date on their lives, what’s to be gained from a formal reunion?

Facebook: The End of Class Reunions?

Could the advancement of Facebook also result in the demise of the high school reunion? Is there a need to see your high school facebook friends in one place after 20 years? Will high school reunions simply become a dreary coffee date for the people of your graduation class who *aren’t* on facebook?

I’ve addressed this before from the perspective of his this will effect Classmates.com’s business, which has largely been built on the concept of enabling reunions.

Personally, I don’t think Facebook or sites like it will kill reunions. In fact, it could do just the opposite since they’ll be easier to organize and people will have more to talk about since they know more about each other through Facebook profiles than they may have known about each other when they shared classrooms.

To me, this is similar to local blogger meet-ups. People who’ve been tracking each other’s lives through their blogs generally have a lot to talk about since they know what their fellow bloggers have in common with them before them get together.

*Photo by Velo Steve under CC.

Facebook Needs to Address Invite Spam

I’m starting to see a two cases of Facebook spam that Facebook will need to
address. This seems critical to me, since a very similar issue is one of the things
that’s led me grow to hate MySpace over time.

First, I’ve been getting repeated friend invitations from people who are overly
aggressive business networkers. The kind of people who think quantity is as
important as quality when it comes to networking.

Second, I’m getting repeated invitations to join groups. In some cases, they’re
groups where I’ve previously been a member but decided the group wasn’t right
for me. After leaving, I’m apparently considered a prospect for joining the
group again, so the invites start coming in.

Facebook Spam

It seems like the friend request confirmation process needs a 3rd option beyond
confirm or ignore that allows users to block future requests. That would give me
the control I’m looking for to manage my relationships properly.

The group invite problem could be addressed when leaving groups. A checkbox
saying, “Been there. Done that.” which creates a “not interested” status for a
specific group would clean this up nicely.

Does Facebook Beat Television for Your Time?

After finishing dinner tonight, I hopped on Facebook. I could have just as easily watched some TV shows – on my computer, since I don’t have one of those clunky wall units – but I found myself catching up with my friend’s updates, including relationship status changes, Twitters, groups joined, and party invites.

Once caught up, I turned to the web, where I read a blog post by Brad Feld, who raised an interesting point within a recent post about Facebook:

The Facebook Problem

Last week, I started saying to people “Facebook is a substitute for television.” I don’t think I made this up (I’m sure someone else said it first), but for the last decade many people involved in the Internet have been searching for the pure substitute for TV – what will you spend your online time playing with instead of sitting and passively watching TV. Facebook finally seems to be the tipping point for this.

I absolutely agree with Feld’s point. Personally, Facebook has overtaken TV as my first choice for entertainment at home, since it’s much more interesting to login to Facebook and catch up with friends than it is to passively watch a show. Facebook’s News Feeds allow me to find truly interesting content with only a few clicks. Interesting things that I find myself talking about with my wife and friends later in the day, such as a change in relationship status of one my wife’s brothers today (good news).

At this point, I see college students refreshing Facebook on commercial breaks while watching TV. This puts their attention at around 3:1 in favor of TV. But if you forced them to choose between Facebook and TV I’m sure a large percentage of them would choose their friends (Facebook) over their shows.

As Facebook user’s networks grow, just keeping up with changes becomes a big time commitment. But it’s a commitment people are willing to make since it’s extraordinarily interesting content. Eventually, something has to give, and I think it will be time spent watching commercial TV.

Facebook Adds Twitter-like Functionality

Facebook
recently announced
a few changes to their status update system that closely
replicate Twitter’s
offering:

  • Your friends’ three most recent updates on the
    home
    page
  • A
    brand
    new page to see all your friends’ updates at once
  • An RSS feed to put your friends’ updates in your reader of choice
  • The ability to subscribe to a friend’s updates via
    SMS
  • The ability to easily update status from your phone by
    sending
    an SMS to Facebook starting with the “@” character

Among my non-Twitter converted friends, the toughest group to convert after
Luddites is Facebook users. Their basic response is, “Why would I need a service
like Twitter do do what I already do with Facebook?” That together with, “all of
my friends are on Facebook, so what do I need Twitter for?” are the two most
common push backs.

When I look at Twitter, I see a crowd who was out of college before Facebook
came along. They see Twitter as a cool service, but only because they weren’t
already locked into Facebook through years of network building.

Considering that Facebook offers even more Twitter-like functionality in the
form of SMS subscriptions and status updates, their case for standardizing on
Facebook appears to be even stronger.

Facebook’s Hiring Policies

According to Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, while speaking at a recent conference on start-ups:

VentureBeat » Start-up advice for entrepreneurs, from Y Combinator Startup School

He stepped on the stage wearing his trademark Adidas sandals (he bought ten pairs before they were discontinued).

“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” he stated. If you want to found a successful company, you should only hire young people with technical expertise.

“Young people are just smarter,” he said with a straight face. “Why are most chess masters under 30?” he asked. “I don’t know,” he answered. “Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family.” In the absence of those distractions, he says, you can focus on big ideologies. He added, “I only own a mattress.” Later: “Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”

At 33, I’m apparently much too old to work for Facebook.