rumors – Stay N Alive

Here’s What I Can Predict With Absolute Certainty

Including this year, I’ve been to 3 Facebook F8 Developer Conferences now (I missed the first year, but followed it remotely). There is a repeat pattern for each, that I want to just get out of the way before this conference starts, and predict, with absolute certainty, will happen. I thought this warranted its own post:

Bloggers will complain. Users will revolt. People will leave the service.

This happens with every single major Facebook update, and it has happened after every F8 conference (maybe not the first one). It is so predictable now that I just smile and laugh.

The fact is, no matter how many people say they are quitting, no matter how many people say they hate the new changes, people still stay. They always come back. They’re always more vocal leaving than they are coming back, too.

The truth is, as long as Facebook continues to innovate, and as long as they continue to adapt and listen to their users, yet innovate as they do so (meaning they are the first to an idea, not necessarily their users), they’ll always lure people back into their service. I guarantee they’ll make mistakes. I guarantee users will hate them for that. However, Facebook always adapts when it’s clear they made a mistake, and the users always come back. They’ll continue to grow, and in more and more areas – I can guarantee that.

You’re already starting to see this – “Facebook’s another Yahoo”. “Facebook is dying”. “The sky is falling”. This happens again and again, year after year. It’s almost predictable, and it will keep happening. You’ll keep coming back though. You’ll keep finding new and better ways to use the service, and you’ll continue to realize this is one of the best services for your closest friends and family to connect.

BTW, you may be asking, “but what about Google+?” I really don’t think they’re direct competitors. Certain people will use Google+ – many people will, in fact (I wouldn’t have written a book on it if that weren’t the case). However, different types of people will use Facebook. The two will compete, and that’s good. I don’t think either service is “dying” though. We’ll all find better ways to use the best tools available.

In fact, for any service, when people are yelling you’re dying, when you’re still growing, that’s a good thing! It shows you’ve touched a few nerves and you’ve got people’s attention.

You’ve Heard the Rumors. Here are a Few Predictions That "Just Make Sense" For Facebook’s F8

Facebook’s developer conference, F8, is coming up this Thursday, having developers like myself drooling at what Facebook might be launching. Last year I was pretty close in my prediction (I had the code right – just not exactly what the code did – this was all the launch of Facebook’s Social Plugins), having got some clues in their open source Javascript SDK that were launched in the code before they were released to developers. The thing is, this year I’m stumped. I can’t see a single thing in Facebook’s code (with the exception of some sort of “Questions” XFBML tag, but I don’t think that’s new – perhaps in testing?). None of their employees are giving any hints whatsoever of what’s launching, and overall, there have been no obvious clues as to what might launch. The truth is, I don’t even know if I’d blog about it this time even if I did find anything – there is something to the element of Surprise and letting others experience that at F8 as well. I’d like to respect that. I figured I’d put down my thoughts though, and rather than trying to predict anything, I’d share what makes sense to me, out of pure speculation, but with a little bit of backup as to why I think this way.

To start, let’s talk about what the other tech blogs are sharing – it should be noted that even these are rumor, and should not be given any source of credibility until some sort of proof is shown of their pending launch.

  • The HTML5 App Market and Platform (Spartan). This was covered, and scooped thoroughly by Techcrunch’s MG Siegler. I think he’s pretty close to where they’re going with this. I’ve said frequently that Facebook would do well if they had some sort of control of the client, and launching such a platform makes sense. I predict they’ll likely release some sort of app marketplace, via a native app that controls the installation of Facebook-enabled HTML5 apps. They’ll also probably provide native apps for photo sharing and other native-only features of phones so that HTML5 apps can easily tie in and integrate with those features, under Facebook’s control. This is also why they’ll launch an iPad app – it gives them more control.

    BTW, I predicted this 3 years ago.

  • Some sort of Music solution. This too has been covered. I haven’t seen any hint of it by anyone, but it is well known that Facebook employees have loved the social experience of musical apps like Spotify. Not only that, but it would make a lot of sense for Facebook to control the music library of your phone or portable device. There’s just something really social about music, and wanting to share your favorite music with your close friends and family. The more Facebook controls this, the better experience they can provide. I bet this launches as a mobile solution of some sort. It could potentially also launch as a browser plugin (which I’ll explain below).
  • “Read, Watch, Listen.” AllThingsD covered this well. Tonight was the first I heard about it. It fits with the music sharing idea I mentioned above. It also fits with the expanded, 5,000 character limit status update posts that are anticipated to launch tomorrow (see the comments in that link), according to Blake Ross, Facebook’s Director of Product. It seems Facebook is getting ready to launch better ways to curate content – they definitely seem to be trying to get Robert Scoble’s attention with this (he seems to know more than he’s telling). Robert loves curation – he’ll be all over this. I think it will also be really good for Facebook.

    One question I do have though is could Facebook also be partnering with, or starting their own movie and media streaming and sharing service with this? They seem to have been experimenting already some with Livestream at

    The other option (which could be combined with the above) is Facebook could be ready to launch a true Google+ Hangouts competitor using their Skype relationship, allowing people to better share and collaborate and “watch” their favorite videos with groups of their closest friends and family. I get the feeling this Skype relationship is only the beginning.

  • New, revamped profiles. This will be interesting. Mashable reports that some anonymous sources are reporting that a new profile focused more on what media users are listening to or watching will be launched, the intent being to bring more attention to the profile of each user, and encourage others to spend more time on each user’s profile. Kinda reminds me of Myspace – I hope not.

    There are a few things that do make sense here though. With the new emphasis on subscriptions, I anticipate they will likely turn on some sort of capability for individuals to create custom tabs like they do Facebook Pages. Facebook will also likely need to turn on analytics (they’re “Insights” product) to give full reasoning to have people with dual personal Facebook Pages and Profiles have a reason to switch.

    Also, being able to go to my profile to see what music I’m listening to is also an interesting concept – not sure why they wouldn’t use the news feed for that, though. Instead, perhaps they’ll use some sort of concept more similar to Google+’s Hangouts or where you can actually listen together to the music, comment on what you’re listening to, and give others the ability to control your own music flow. The same could apply to movies as well.

With those out of the way, let me share a few things that just make sense to me, with the recent launch of subscriptions, and the direction Facebook seems to be going. I should be careful to note that I haven’t gotten any official confirmation from any Facebook employee on these. They are pure speculation on my part – they just make sense though. I predict some or all of these could be launched, and if they aren’t launched at F8 we will see them at some point in Facebook’s future:
  • A browser plugin platform, to complement the HTML5 Mobile platform. I’ve lauded the web with no login button for awhile now. The concept being you can go from site to site, and have each site automatically identify you based on information supplied by your browser. What if it was a Facebook extension or plugin in your browser that actually did this? What if Facebook provided a platform for this, so that other apps could easily tie in and augment the experience, based on permission from the user.

    It just occurred to me today that it’s been a little eerie that there have been no hints of anything new in the code in Facebook’s website or their SDK. True, Facebook could just have a stronger security model than they used to (likely), but it could also be that some of their employees are also using a browser extension to test sharing, and other features. With this, it would be much harder to detect what’s happening, and you wouldn’t see anything in the code of the website itself.

    Also interesting is the activity I’m seeing by Facebook’s Director of Product, Blake Ross, recently. He seems to have had a major role in the launch of many of these recent products. For those that don’t know, Blake Ross was one of the founders of the Mozilla Firefox project (yes, the browser).

    I should also be clear that anything I ever see from an employee friend I never reveal on this blog – to me a friend is a friend, and I would never abuse that relationship. I can certainly write about what I’m not seeing though! (and of note, I have not seen anything this year, oddly!)

  • Better, and more accessible search options. With Facebook’s subscriptions recently launching, along with a better lists user experience and easier ability to target posts publicly, or to specific lists, it makes sense that more and more people on Facebook are going to begin posting updates publicly. This is what Facebook’s been trying to make happen for quite awhile now. I think finally they did it.

    As a result, it makes sense that Facebook would release a better search user experience, to search these public updates. This is what currently makes Twitter powerful. And with the “Read, Watch, Listen” theme, it would make sense that Facebook wants you to be able to discover content easier. Will we be able to search public updates? Will there be trending terms and other stats (similar to their Lexicon that used to be available). I talked about this potential a few years ago.

  • The ability to “subscribe” to Lists. Several people, including Facebook’s Blake Ross (again, see the comments in that link), have hinted that Facebook is getting ready to launch better ways for family and friends to only get the content they want to see from you. This is the problem I’m running into right now with the new subscriptions. I post a lot more with subscriptions, but half of my posts my family and friends can’t even understand! The majority of my subscribers can though. So how do I set it so that my close family and friends don’t see those public updates?

    A solution I think makes a lot of sense is the idea of creating Facebook lists that others can subscribe to. Right now, when someone subscribes to my public updates, I get a notification saying, “so and so has subscribed to your public updates”. What if that notification was also programmed to say “so and so has subscribed to your technology updates”? The wording seems to make that possible.

    I think it would make a lot of sense if I could create lists targeted towards things I’m interested in. I could create a “technology” list. I could create a “facebook” list. Or, I could take one of my existing lists. Then I could have the option to make that list “subscribable”. Doing so would then, instead of only allowing me to decide who gets updates targeted towards that list, allow anyone who wants to be on that list also receive updates I want to intend towards people on that list. It would be a lot like an email list where anyone can subscribe to get updates, a common feature of many mailing list providers.

  • The death of Notes. As I said above, Blake Ross also confirmed tonight that tomorrow, a new change will be launching allowing Facebook posts to have a maximum limit of 5,000 characters, and potentially even more after that. The current limit is 500 characters. This, in essence, removes the need for the Notes app on Facebook. I think it makes a lot of sense that this app will go away. There’s just not much need any more for the app if I can do the same thing in my status updates.
  • The reintroduction of ActivityStreams, in a distributed consumption (and publishing) model. Chris Messina gave an excellent presentation on the vision for this model. Google+ just launched support (read-only right now) for ActivityStreams, in a limited format. It would make a lot of sense for Facebook to do the same. They’re already rumored to be launching Twitter integration and the ability to post updates to Twitter. What if they also end up having a content consumption model, using ActivityStreams’ standard to be able to import content that has a different source than the current site the content is being shared on. This, in essence, could allow for a distributed subscription model.

    Also of note, Chris Messina worked on the SpreadFirefox project at Mozilla with Blake Ross

  • The launch of OpenID Connect support. OpenID Connect just released their spec. Both Facebook and Google have been very public supporters in the development of this spec. Facebook has always been one of the first on board to the new OAuth specs for developers, with their launch of OAuth 2.0 support last year. It would make a whole lot of sense for Facebook to launch their first implementation of OpenID Connect during this conference.
  • Revamped Facebook Pages. It’s already been rumored that profiles are getting a revamped look and feel. What about Facebook Pages? Up until now they’ve been pretty neglected. I think it makes a lot of sense that Facebook Pages would get a better interface. More moderation capabilities. Easier management. Better promotional opportunities to gain more likes. I think this is very likely this conference.
  • An actual Phone based on their Open Hardware initiative? Facebook has been very big on their open hardware support, with the launch of their new server hosting facility near Seattle. In fact, David Recordon, Facebook’s Senior Open Programs manager, was quoted recently by Jolie O’Dell at Venturebeat saying that Open Hardware was the future over open source software.

    What if one of their focuses currently is on an open hardware phone? There’s nothing like that out there right now. Google’s focus with Android has been on open source, not Open Hardware.  Facebook could really take the mobile game to the next level with this approach.

Of course, all these predictions are just speculation, but you have to admit they all make a lot of sense. Whether we see them at F8, or in the months following, I bet we see a lot of these come to fruition. The innovation in this space is just mind boggling (and I’m sure overwhelming for many users!). While I’m sure competitors such as Google+ are a motivating factor, Facebook truly seems to be thinking outside the box in their efforts going forward. As long as they keep doing so, we’ll continue to see this playing field move forward at a pace we’ve never seen before. Let’s just hope the users can keep up!
In the meantime, let me know in the comments if you’re coming to F8 – I’d love to meet you! Of course, as always, you can subscribe to me any time on Facebook to get more updates like this.

Facebook Rumors, Religion, and the LDS Faith

telephone.pngIt all started with this post today. A supposed “employee ‘close to the deal'” told blogger, Zach Klein (who doesn’t seem to allow comments on his blog) that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History division had made an unsolicited bid to purchase Facebook. Nothing else – no other background, no other resources to confirm the deal. Soon after, ValleyWag, the first to the scene and first large blog to publish anything about it, was blogging rumors they are well known for spreading. Soon after, Venturebeat and the Industry Standard were blogging about it, quoting Brady Brim-DeForest, who ironically was claiming this as news, not a rumor at all – I’m unaware of where he got it, but his news broke after Valleywag’s. TheInquisitr, while I’m sure had no ill-intentions, even made fun of the manner with some very radical and somewhat inaccurate claims that I know have offended some members of the LDS Faith that read the blog. The blogosphere seems to be a mess today in regards to regard for religion, faith, and respect for one another’s belief. It appears the LDS Church has become the punch-line of the blogosphere’s Jokes and I’m getting really tired of it.

Now, let’s talk about rumors. The blogosphere is known for spreading rumors – I’ve hated them from the get-go, but let’s face it, it’s a part of many blogs out there, and it may not be going away any time soon. (I think I could do an entire post about rumors in and of itself) I expect an occasional rumor about Microsoft trying to buy Yahoo, or Facebook employees leaving the company because they are mad with Executives, or even a crazy one like the iPhone 2.0 coming with 2 cameras and iChat video support. Frankly, I never share those (well, rarely), but they are fun to read because, well, they’re funny. But rumors like an entire Faith buying a huge company like Facebook are ridiculous, unfounded, and frankly offensive to me that anyone would take such a rumor seriously when the Faith is my own. It’s a religion, people – tell me one reason a religious Faith would need a social network like Facebook to further its mission. Do you seriously believe any religion would be so stupid as to try this? People would leave Facebook in droves if that were to happen, and a network like Facebook has no good way of building up the members of the Faith itself. The claim is absolutely ridiculous, and I can’t believe established bloggers are taking this serious enough to share with others! There seems to be a serious lack of understanding between the blogosphere and the LDS Faith and I’d like to figure out a way to put an end to it.

Let’s go back to earlier this year. You may remember my “Shame on You TechCrunch” post I wrote awhile back, calling out the writers at CrunchGear for an extremely biased, and very misunderstood and inconsiderate interview of Penn Juliette, in which he claimed Mormons had “magic underwear” (as a Mormon, I affirm to you, that my underwear is not magic), and went on to encourage him as he talked about how easy religious women were, degrading women at the same time. While I still will not read CrunchGear because of that, I have lifted my boycott of TechCrunch (just because there is no way to avoid it – I also did not know Arrington at all at the time), but as you can see, there is a blatent misunderstanding of the LDS Faith in the blogosphere. CrunchGear still stands by their article and has refused to make any statement to the contrary.

Now, to give credit to those that have blogged about this today, Eric Eldon (of VentureBeat) does have a great point in that the LDS Church does actively invest in stock to retain and increase the value of its members donations through Tithing, and Facebook employees are selling stock. Like Louis Gray, I too give 10% of my wages in the form of Tithing to the Church, and I sincerely hope they invest it wisely and don’t just waste it away. I know their investments are wise though, and even the “widow’s mite” is considered and cared for. The Church itself never publishes these investments and it would be impossible to know if some are in Facebook or some are in Microsoft or some are in Google. They take these donations as sacred, and every effort is taken to maintain the sacredness of those donations. However, an outright acquisition of Facebook would be proposterous and completely out of line with the Church’s history.

Every one of these bloggers could have done a simple Tweet in fact, and quickly gotten a response from Mormons on how ridiculous the claims are. Or they could have shot Louis Gray, or me, or Matt Asay, or Phil Windley, or other Mormon bloggers an e-mail asking us if the claims were true. It took me about 5-10 minutes to send an e-mail to the LDS church and get a response back (which, btw, said the claims are not true and unfounded), and in fact, the LDS Church CIO is even on Twitter – an e-mail or even simple dm to him may have done the trick.

Now, I’m not necessarily trying to call out these specific bloggers, but rather point out the problem in general – I respect most of them in fact and really enjoy their regular blog posts. I’m just trying to make a shoutout to the blogosphere that we’re here if you have questions! Let’s start an open dialogue about the Mormon Faith – do you have questions? We’d really like to answer them before you assume and blog inaccuracies in the first place. Please, don’t hesitate to contact me, Louis Gray, or any other Mormon blogger if you have any hestitancy before posting an article. It’s time we put an end to this nonsense, once and for all.