The Powerful Weakness of Facebook
How much time to you spend on user profile pages in forums today? I’d be willing to bet that it’s very little. You probably don’t even visit your own. But on Facebook we are always going into other people’s profiles to look for things. It isn’t because forum profile pages aren’t “good”. It’s because on Facebook you’re digging for information about people, while on forums you’re digging for information. Period. If you think about it that way, Facebook is a forum’s best friend: it is essentially a peer-review system, allowing your friends to curate what’s awesome on the web so you can consume it.
Have you ever noticed that internet memes sweeping the web almost never originate in Facebook? Where do they come from? Forums. Places like 4chan (and now canv.as), Reddit, Penny Arcade, PB Nation, Mac Rumors, etc.
When you take a group of people and rally them around a subject, amazing things begin to happen. It happens every day that a groundswell of activity originating in niche communities built by individuals with powerful voices can affect the world. And here is the powerful weakness of Facebook: In it’s ingenious strategy for growth, they’ve kneecapped themselves from ever being a source for this type of community power.
I believe it is one of the many reasons why discussion forum-based communities continue to flourish in spite of the growth of social networks. I see Facebook attempt to mimic this type of power and continue to miss the mark (no pun intended). It’s the piece that we are harnessing at Vanilla: empowering strangers to rally around a topic and decide what’s good and what’s bad. Giving them the power to promote that great content and the great users who contribute it.