Facebook Inside: Hardware Is Bringing Facebook Everywhere

With more than 500 million registered users, Facebook is already a force to be reckoned with in the world of social networks. When a service becomes that large, its growth rate often slows, but Facebook’s audience is poised to keep growing at a healthy clip, and not just because of new software features like the recently announced Places. Instead, the trend is for Facebook to find hooks into hardware devices of every type, even those that aren’t always connected or can’t directly connect to the Internet.

Just today, Kodak announced a new digital camera, the EasyShare M590. When I looked at the specifications list, I expected to see how many megapixels the camera sensor can capture, what kind of zoom magnification the lens offers and the size of the LCD display. All of that information is found in the press release, but it’s secondary to the dedicated share button on the camera. The very first specification listed is for this button, which tags photos or videos for YouTube (s goog), Flickr (s yhoo), Orkut, email — and Facebook. Kodak (s ek) also introduced a new picture frame with connectivity today, and it too has hooks into Facebook, so you can easily show pictures from your Facebook albums.

The new Kodak camera and picture frame join a growing army of Facebook-enabled hardware: We can view or update our Facebook status today on gaming consoles. Bedside displays such as the Sony Dash (s sne) or cute little Chumby device are tied into the Facebook collective, as well. And while the hottest, new television feature might be 3-D technology, more sets are coming with integrated web connections that will inevitably point back to Facebook and other social sites. Once consumers have a device to get their Facebook fix, research shows they use the site even more : A recent Nielsen survey reveals that nearly a quarter of the average American’s online time each day is used for Facebook.

The situation is akin to what has happened with YouTube, which is also being integrated into a variety of current hardware and could gain additional legs with GoogleTV. I can’t seem to swing a stick without hitting some device that has either a dedicated viewer, a way to upload videos or some other direct tie to YouTube. The video service is everywhere, and Facebook apparently isn’t far behind. Based on the wide range of offerings found in Facebook — applications, locations, recommendations from friends and shared items all kinds from the web — I won’t be surprised at all when Facebook is found in more devices than YouTube. Maybe my next car will automatically check me to the nearest location on Facebook Places when I park?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): The Internet of Things: What It Is, Why It Matters