Imagining The Future of Facebook

by Dani Burns on March 12, 2011

Facebook LikeSeven years ago, Facebook didn’t exist…

Yes, though it’s hard to imagine, there was once a dark and disconnected time that we now refer to as ‘Life Before Facebook’ or 2004 B.F.

Today, the social utility (a word insisted upon by our friend, Zuck) is a behemoth website, fully ingrained in public consciousness, and doubling in size nearly every 6 months. Whether you love or hate Facebook, there is no denying that it has dramatically changed the landscape of the social web and has become the pack leader in driving social media innovation in its brief, seven year lifespan.

But can Facebook sustain this exponential growth long term? What is the future of the social networking giant?

I recently stumbled upon the proposed research project, The Future of Facebook, on Kickstarter (a funding platform for creative projects of all kinds). The project aims to investigate the social implications of Facebook’s tremendous growth spurt, its impending challenges and opportunities, and the increasingly important role the it plays in our daily lives through a 6 part video series.

The Future of Facebook project will tackle ambitious questions such as:

Will life on Facebook be linked more closely to ‘real’ life?

Looking at the web connectivity landscape over the last year, we’ve seen the Facebook Connect takeover, geo-location based platforms exploding, the tablet computing boom, QR codes entering mainstream marketing and international marketers dabbling with Near Field Communications (NFC).

Information will continue to flow from online to offline and vice versa in an increasingly fluid, seamless way. Will the Facebook team continue to drive this next phase of social (web) evolution?

David Armano, SVP of Edelman Digital, says:

Facebook came onto the scene and very quickly disrupted digital by harnessing and organizing the social graph… Just like Google indexed the open web, Facebook harnessed and organized the social graph in a way that was really compelling and addictive, and useful.

Unless you’re Malcolm Gladwell (in which case none of your Facebook relationships are ‘real’ anyway), you likely understand the power that lies in Facebook’s open graph. As the social graph becomes increasingly mobile-accessible, and location based apps continue to tap into the vein of social behavior offline, how will Facebook fight to remain relevant?

Will Facebook become an important part of the global economy?

Rita King, Innovator in Residence for IBM Analytics Virtual Center speculates:

Facebook’s role in the global economy will be contingent on how Facebook Credits shake out and whether Facebook is able to find a way to take a cut of every piece of currency that passes through the system.

The impending IPO, micro-payments, projected ad growth and movie rental announcements have everyone wondering – what is Facebook’s monetization plan anyway?

Are there any major threats to Facebook’s future?

In the preview video, Doc Searls, author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, speculates as to the threats to Facebook’s existence:

Here’s the future of Facebook – there is no Facebook. There is: everybody has their own book, their own face and they have their own control over their own data, and they can move that data in and out of Facebook and similar services as much and freely as they want. They are in full control. That is the future that we need to be heading toward, whether we’re heading there right now or not.

What are your thoughts on the future of Facebook? Will the giant survive or be eclipsed by an unknown competitor, only to join Myspace en route to the social graveyard?

To date, The Future of Facebook project has raised $4,581 of its $5,000 goal. (Because it sparked my interest, I made a small donation to the project as well). With Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing, so check it out and if you feel compelled, please give.

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