The world's largest social network has just undergone two of the biggest changes in its history and they may alter the way we use the Internet forever…
On Thursday evening Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the company's F8 annual conference to announce new multimedia, app and gaming integration. Deals with the likes of Spotify, Netflix, Zynga, the Guardian and Washing Post are fundamentally changing Facebook from a content link to a supplier. As these services are linked through Facebook rather than hosted on the site (for example, you still need to install the Spotify client) the social network remains an indirect supplier, but much like a cinema is supplied by a film studio it remains a supplier nonetheless.
Vitally Facebook also becomes a content destination and, with Zuckerberg announcing half a billion people had recently visited the site in just 24 hours, potentially the world's most powerful promoter and distributor. Spotify immediately illustrated this, following the Facebook deal it announced free, unlimited music streaming for six months in the US (its newest and Facebook's biggest market). If 800m active users (50 per cent of which log into Facebook in any given day) are going to have the Spotify brand suddenly thrust upon them then Spotify is rightly determined to take advantage.
Facebook has not revealed who is paying who with these multimedia tie-ins, but all parties look set to benefit. More to the point, however, it is Facebook which holds the power. Its multimedia partners have significant rivals, Facebook does not and as these companies fight to agree deals with Facebook revenue cuts should mean whichever way it plays out, Facebook wins.
It gets better for Zuckerberg too. Facebook doesn't just offer its partners exposure to raw numbers, the usual goal of mainstream advertising. Further functionality introduced at F8 will see media content become social with the site's new real time ticker constantly updating to show what your friends are watching and listening to. This acts as additional promotion and also a source of consumption ideas. Hover over the content and there is the option to play it. A future update will allow content to be played in complete harmony with a friend – something that is sure to appeal to couples.
All of which places tremendous pressure on Facebook to maintain its key industry differentiator: the sheer volume of users. In the most cunning move of all F8 addressed this too…
Why would you leave Facebook? It must be the question which plagues Mark Zuckerberg more than any other and according to figures in June Facebook numbers in the UK briefly fell. The obvious answer would be Facebook is inane. Photo albums, event hosting and games may make it less inane than Twitter (Twitter thrives on this very aspect), but should you quit Facebook you are likely leaving little of true worth behind. But what if you abandoned your online life?