Facebook has some new friends. And by friends, I mean tentacles – devious ensnarers of productivity, really.
This past May, the face that would launch 30 million registered users and nearly $1 billion bid from Yahoo! opened up its site to outside developers – think widgets for Macs. This means I can take a quiz about The New York Times every day; I can find out what narcotic best describes me as a person and (this would be my current vacuum of time, space and brain activity) I can test my geographical prowess.
There are companies devoted to making these ridiculous little games and “social utilities” to use founder Mark Zuckerburg’s cute buzzword. They’re on par with lolcatz, only not usually as funny (icanhascheezburger.com? Beautifully, pathetically priceless).
But soon after the introduction of said platforms, Facebook made another, relatively quieter move. The independent company acquired Parakey, which, according to its website, “is a platform for building applications that merge the best of the desktop and the Web.” Simply put, such a fusion would have you facebooking as soon as your computer turns on.
This isn’t a revolutionary concept, of course. There are plenty of sites out there helping us sort and organize quirky quotes of the day, a to-do list and our lolcats. Integrating a program like Parakey into the Facebook fold is a recipe for innovation not because the idea is new, but because the site’s user base is unlike any other online.
Facebook has momentum – the kind of momentum that, as of July, has the site growing three times faster than MySpace. It’s progression has been nearly squeaky clean, if you ignore the backlash over the initial rash of platforms. Its layout is straightforward, usually clear and aesthetically pleasing. It easily incorporated the sometimes-creepy News Feed into the lexicon. Ads are simple and tactful; there are no pop-ups, no spam and little room for blatant abuse (not that certain MSA members haven’t found creative ways to make asses out of themselves). It’d be hyperbolic to say the site is perfect, but damn if it’s not sticking to its guns with the right amount of patience. It’s already spawned at least two new verbs: “facebook” and “friend.”
Moms and dads and clueless professors aside, Facebook users are the bread and butter for online media outlets. Young, (relatively) hip, culturally spastic, endlessly entertained by minutia – Facebook’s audience possesses an enduring fervor that, if properly channeled, won’t fade after graduation.
Making your desktop integral to Facebook’s utility is brilliant. Photos, videos, IQ quizzes, monthly calendars – it will all be consolidated on an immediately recognizable platform.
Good for Facebook, but (come on, it’s not like I’m going to marry Zuckerberg or anything) there’s a glaring absence on the site, an absence that is its biggest weakness: news.
I’m not talking about keeping track of your roommates’ relationship statuses or if that guy down the hall is going to the same party thrown by that girl who friended you out of the blue but then realized you were in the same class with that weird teacher with the tooth thing. Aside from clunky, obtrusive applications, you don’t get many peeks of the real world on Facebook. The entire site is self-referential to the point of nausea.
Yes, it is a “social utility.” It’s supposed to be about parties and pictures of beer pong and boilerplate political groups. But it won’t be anything more until it brings in the stuff the big boys and girls talk about. Maybe integrating Parakey will change that.
Facebook meets Google Reader meets my desktop?
– Klein’s only Firefox shortcut is Facebook. We’re worried. Help him at firstname.lastname@example.org.