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Summary:

With the rise of superphones such as Apple’s iPhone, the BlackBerry Bold and Nokia’s E71 and N96 devices, we are at the cusp of a new era in which the mobile and the wired web converge. This convergence, when married to location-based services, would create a new real-time and highly contextual Internet experience. And it’s why for Facebook, which by merging the social network with your phone’s address book, integrates the mobile with the web seamlessly to provide a mobile experience with a higher degree of social relevance, the future is mobile.

facebook-logoWith nearly 2,000 “friends” on Facebook, I should be a regular visitor to the site. I am not. Instead, I prefer to use Facebook’s mobile application on my iPhone to send messages, update my status, upload photos taken on the go and sometime even scroll through the news feed to see what my friends are up to. The ad- and clutter-free interface has fewer distractions and makes using Facebook a breeze.

Apparently, I am one of 25 million Facebook mobile users and one of 4 million who access the service on a daily basis. That’s a sizable portion of Facebook’s 150 million (and growing) registered users, and with them lies Facebook’s future. With the rise of superphones such as Apple’s iPhone, the BlackBerry Bold and Nokia’s E71 and N96 devices, we are at the cusp of a new era in which the mobile and the wired web converge. This convergence, when married to location-based services, would create a new real-time and highly contextual Internet experience.

I recently pointed out that “as we transition to an increasingly mobile world, the location beacon takes the role of the TCP, and most mobile services (and applications) find their context from this location beacon.” In this brave new world, the browser-centric method of “search, find and consume” is quaint at best. These superphones, driven by location beacon and live Internet connections, need to be able to display relevant data with a lot of serendipity. Google is hoping to achieve that by marrying location-based services and local data using a map as an interface.

Compare that to Facebook’s mobile efforts, which could pivot around your real social graph (a fancy way of saying your address book). By merging the social network with your phone’s address book, Facebook integrates the mobile with the web seamlessly to provide a mobile experience with a higher degree of social relevance. “Facebook has all along said it wants to mirror real-world relationships,” Liz Gannes wrote last year. “When you throw mobile into the mix, there’s no reason to even have to separate so-called offline and online contacts.”

With your social network at your proverbial finger tips, forget making phone calls to plan an evening out or a Superbowl party. Facebook can also help extend its vast array of applications to the mobile world, making planning such activities relatively easy. Some of these applications will provide advertising and e-commerce opportunities. For instance, if you are going to see movies with a friend, a reminder of a nearby bar where you could meet for a pre-movie drink could pop up in the ad. It would be a paid placement of course.

A clue to the future comes courtesy of a new web- and mobile-based recommendation service from New York-based startup, Goodrec. It allows me to recommend books, restaurants or places, then shares them with my friends on Facebook. The service aggregates the recommendations from my social network and puts them to use when I need some help in making decisions. When looking for a restaurant recommendation in say Dallas, I can pull up recommendations from my friends on my iPhone. These recommendations are an appropriate place to offer highly relevant advertising — whether it comes from the application developer or Facebook. My bet is that Facebook will start an ad network to target application developers such as Goodrec.

But that will come in the future — for now Facebook has to work on getting millions of its members to sign up for its mobile version.

This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.

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  1. I’m with you, Om. I prefer to use my iPhone for Facebook as well- partially, I think, because it just feels more natural to interact with the service using gestures and swipes than with a keyboard and a mouse.

  2. I think the future of everything (almost) is wireless and mobile. Its just more natural and efficient.

  3. I never really used Facebook all that much until I tried out the BlackBerry client. What an epiphany! All of a sudden the whole thing came alive and became very useful. In particular the ability to share the moment instantly with a geo-tagged photo upload is killer. The ability of a mobile client to make a service relevant is even more true of Twitter. After all, unless you’re tweeting on-the-go, the Twitter question should really be “What WERE you doing?”

  4. At one point of time, everything will be on mobile because that is the most common thing (having connectivity) which we always carry with us

  5. I am a newbie on facebook community,don’t find any mobile section.Please help me.

  6. I actually sometimes prefer the mobile version of Facebook (the WAP version at m.facebook.com, making me archaic), which has done some clever things that have gone under the radar. For example, among the direct links is a link to your phonebook, cataloging the battery of cell numbers your friends have uploaded. (I caught a screen shot of this and wrote about it last month here: http://www.mostlikelytodiealone.com/2009/01/on-utility-facebook-style.html)

    I liked that you brought up the “real-world relationships” point, but I think it’s less about sticking to Facebook to get those Sunday evening plans done. I think making the utility to get directly in touch with friends from your phone, though, correlates better to making the social connection Facebook desires.

  7. McGuire’s Law » Blog Archive » Observations: Services – February 11, 2009 Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    [...] Why Facebook’s Future Is Mobile [...]

  8. Why Facebook’s Future Is Mobile « Jingoistical Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    [...] Why Facebook’s Future Is Mobile: “” [...]

  9. Mobile computing is the wave of the future.

    Our lives are complicated and busy. Mobile
    computing facilitates our chaotic lifestyles.

  10. Om is this an age thing?

    I have two teenage daughters who are facebook and mobile users, however as they are on Pay As You Go plans they do not use the mobile web. Too expensive for them to do so.

    With over 90% of the worlds 4 Billion users of mobile on similar Pay As You Go plans the influence of mobile internet is at present limited.

    When it comes to social networking on mobile my daughters do so via bluetooth and SMS which limits the options for Facebook that they use to organise things. This is still true when you look at the actions of youngsters in Japan or Europe who arrange things more in the manner of a FlashMob because the user group is more easy to control than on Facebook.

    I have worked in Mobile in Europe since 1985 as an Economist and watch trends for me the interesting thing is that more and more users are duel SIM and more are downscaling to a low cost handset than up to a smartphone. This fact means that development of a mobile web strategy needs to be undertaken carefully. Llook at the plans for mobile banking in the US; and you see that Wells Fargo have some 28 different products dependent on the customers needs and device.

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