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Stalker apps offer glimpse of Facebook future

The social media blogosphere has been abuzz in the past week about a new Facebook app called “Waiting Room,” the cousin of Breakup Notifier, which was recently blocked by Facebook. From Mashable:

“Here’s how it works: When you indicate interest in an unavailable Facebook friend, that person gets an e-mail notification that there is someone in his or her “WaitingRoom” (this person need not have the app installed at this point). The identity of the admirer isn’t revealed until the recipient has changed his or her Facebook status to single.”

Beyond the frivolity (and admitted creepiness) of it all, I think it’s a creative idea, and gives those of us who do this for a living a couple lessons on how to best capitalize on the Facebook platform:

1. The hidden goldmine underlying the Facebook behemoth is not the publishing platform, it’s the connections:

Facebook was created to help us better connect with one another by making our connections tangible. Once an ambiguous collection of mental links, “friends” are now commoditized, with measurable analytics like wall posts, “likes,” and shared interests. While developers have done a good job of using this dynamic within the Facebook platform itself to great success (read: Farmville), they haven’t been so great on the outside. Apps like this, regardless of actual value, remind us that the best uses of the Internet are often those that capture the best of the offline world, online.

Developers should follow the example of Facebook’s “Like” button in striving to find creative ways to extend Facebook’s functionality outside of the walled garden. Specifically, within the Facebook TOS, developers could benefit by more creatively using Facebook’s email permissions with the existing data available.

2. The amount of data currently possessed by Facebook is staggering:

Forget Match.com or eHarmony, it’s likely that Facebook currently holds the largest database of relationship data anywhere. Replace “relationships” with political views, favorite sports team, or attendance at an event, and you can get a good idea of the type of data we’re talking about.

The average FB user is connected to 80 pages, has 130 friends, sends eight friend requests a month, and creates three pieces of content a day. And, it’s not overselling to say that this user “lives” her life on Facebook–she spends almost an hour a day logged in (50% of users are logged in at any given time). Through both implicit and explicit information, Facebook literally knows more about her than, perhaps, even her closest friends.

With this data, a robust API and boundless imagination, developers have a canvas to draw on of which they’ve only occupied a fraction. This is the largest collection of data ever assembled in the history of the world. Shouldn’t we be really using it?

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