What the F8? Understanding Facebook’s Expansion 7

Yesterday in San Francisco Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolled out some big plans for his baby at the company’s 8th developer conference, f8. After combing through all the tech round ups, here are the major take aways:

Facebook global domination, one thumbs up at a time: The most notable announcement at f8 was that Facebook’s “Like” feature will now be available on any website that wishes to add the cheery sign of approval to its site. You can indicate your favor for anything on the web – a song, a recipe, a celebrity gossip post – all with one click.

While many support this web-wide expansion, others have strong concerns. John Sutter of CNN writes, “A consequence of these “like” buttons will be that your friends’ Facebook profile photos will start showing up all over the web. If you see your friends’ smiling faces online, it’s an indication that they have clicked a “like” button on the website you’re visiting. In a way, they’re recommending it to you.”

While those concerned with privacy issues are shrieking and scrambling in horror, marketers are smiling and planning ways utilize this public display of brand loyalty to move the sales needle.

Log in, plug in: In addition to the “Like” feature on websites outside of Facebook itself, the company is also going to allow sites to show Facebook user preferences without needing to log into that specific site. For example, if you frequent the music site Pandora, you will be able to see your friends’ music preferences based on their Facebook music preferences. Miguel Helft at the New York Times dives deeper with Pandora CTO Tom Conrad:

“It makes it really, really easy to ring your friends into Pandora and discover the music they’re experiencing,” Mr. Conrad said. Mr. Conrad started listening to a band and a picture of one of his Facebook friends who likes the same band showed up. With a click on that picture, we were able to see all the other bands that his friend also liked.

The features also allow Pandora to know which bands users have included in their Facebook profiles and begin playing music from those bands. That makes it easy for Pandora to begin playing music for new users without requiring them to type in their music preferences.

“Pandora is finally social,” Mr. Conrad said. And he said that Mr. Zuckerberg deserved all the credit for the changes. “You get a personalization with no clicks, and that was Mark’s idea.”

My friends and I already share Pandora station and Grooveshark playlist recommendations and this takes out the need for a third party mode of sharing. Tech and social media guru Robert Scoble tweeted this morning to his 121, 500 plus followers:

@scobleizer: OK, I’m sold on the new Facebook stuff. The new Pandora is FREAKING AWESOME.

So what does it all mean? In his keynote address at f8 Mark Zuckerberg explained, “The Web is at a really important turning point now. Most things aren’t social, and they don’t use your real identity. This is really starting to change.” This new expansion of Facebook preferences into the broader web begins that transition from stagnant to social on the broadest of scales.

These moves are not altruistic, of course. Facebook is opening the door to a whole new set of tactics from marketers and promoters, as well as increasing new opportunities for their own revenue stream.

Jon Swartz of USA Today wrote, “If successful, these functions could help Facebook gain valuable insights about millions of consumers and help it sell more advertising in its escalating rivalry with online ad leader Google.”

You hear that Google? Mark’s coming for you.

Former Fortune writer and author of the soon to be released book The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick, summed it up best in a tweet today:

@DavidKirkpatric: Facebook’s f8 yesterday represents a sea change for the company–now the world clearly sees the scope of its ambition.

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