I don’t do speculative posts like this too often, except around Facebook’s F8 developer events for the most part. The last one I predicted was that Facebook would announce a Mobile Platform at F8 – the announcement did occur along with Facebook Connect. The first F8 was the announcement of the Facebook API, which revolutionized Social Development and has left players like Google scrambling to play catch up since. Now, 2 years since the last F8, the next F8 has been announced, and we are all wondering what the next big announcement will be. If it is to be in line with the last 2, and, considering they waited 2 years to have another one, they have to be announcing something game-changing. I predict it directly involves some of the FriendFeed team and it’s directly related to real-time.
First of all, let me preface this with the fact that I am not receiving this data from any inside contacts at Facebook, nor have I been told anything the rest of the world doesn’t already know. This is pure speculation – I hope it’s taken as such. I am also certainly not a psychic. I think if you look at some of the hints though, you can see the potential for something big, perhaps FriendFeed 3.0-like (remember, FriendFeed 2.0 was the advent of their real-time stream you see now) about to happen at Facebook. Here are my reasons for thinking such:
What is Paul Buchheit Working on?
Paul Buchheit, one of the founders of FriendFeed, creator of Gmail, and now working at Facebook after FriendFeed was acquired, hasn’t yet made it evident exactly what he’s working on. We know Bret Taylor, also a founder, is now Director of Product for Facebook, and working heavily with the Facebook APIs and the new Roadmap Facebook has laid out for developers. We know Kevin Fox, pretty much the man behind all the design of FriendFeed, has been working on the new Games and Apps dashboard that Facebook just launched (that you can see on the left-hand side of Facebook).
But what is Paul Buchheit working on? He recently commented stating he is definitely not working on Facebook’s new e-mail product that they have been rumored to be working on to replace their current inbox structure. I’m not sure anyone has specifically stated exactly whether he’s working on the Facebook developer platform now or not. He seems to be doing something big, and he’s certainly been studying Google Buzz recently if you look over his FriendFeed stream lately.
Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee
Then there’s that “Butterfly” post. Paul Buchheit specifically stated when Robert Scoble, Steve Gillmor, and others were all pressuring Facebook to make a statement on what they were going to do with FriendFeed that “the team is working on a couple of longer-term projects that will help bring FriendFeedy goodness to the larger world.” He then continued, “Transformation is not the end. Consider this the chrysalis stage — if all goes well, a beautiful butterfly will emerge”.
The mystery in all this is that Facebook has not yet released anything even remotely similar to what Paul described yet. Paul’s a really smart guy. He’s not just going to work on something mediocre for Facebook – whatever it is, it has to be game changing. I really believe that whatever it is will blow our minds away when it happens. The FriendFeed team doesn’t just innovate. They revolutionize. I don’t believe they would still be at Facebook if they didn’t have that opportunity.
Then there’s the lack of any real-time APIs or architecture at Facebook. I have to click on the page to have it refresh. Frankly, I think that fits their current audience of 400 million+ “average Joes” well. It doesn’t tap into the news-seeking, data-mining, and publishing audiences very well though. That’s what Twitter does well. It’s what FriendFeed and Buzz also do well. All of these come with real-time APIs and real-time searches (or “track”).
Facebook needs a real-time interface for developers still. It needs search. It needs search to be real-time. It needs a public view into all of that, supported by the powerful privacy controls Facebook already has in place. Facebook has already built out the building blocks to launch this with their recent emphasis on encouraging users to open up their posts more and at the same time enabling them to have granularity in who sees those posts. The next natural step is to finally open up those public posts to developers, and provide a real-time interface to it all. With a 400 million user audience, that would be game-changing in the realm of real-time data. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
The Lack of any Really Big Known Announcements at F8
Lastly, we know everything else Facebook could announce at F8. Facebook has already started rolling out credits to developers, so a payment system wouldn’t be much of a “game changer” per se. I’m sure they’ll talk a lot about it at the conference though. Facebook has already started rolling out its Ads API to developers. They’ve already announced the desire to open up websites as virtual 3rd-party “Pages” on the web. They’ve let us know just about everything in their roadmap, except the fate of FriendFeed.
Doesn’t this seem strange to you that Facebook and the FriendFeed team have been so mute on this in general for almost a year now? What’s going on behind the scenes? Even when asking the FriendFeed team about plans to integrate better into Facebook they have remained mute. How cool would it be if, while everyone is ranting and raving about Google Buzz and calling FriendFeed dead, the FriendFeed team along with the incredible talent that Facebook adds to the mix have all been working on FriendFeed 3.0 behind the scenes? What if Facebook caught wind Google was working on Buzz and bought FriendFeed in response to that rumor? Will the “Butterfly” emerge at F8? The chrysalis stage takes patience – I’m not giving up on FriendFeed yet.