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How Facebook will change the face of the Internet

April 23rd, 2010

Facebook made some huge announcements yesterday.

At its core, Facebook’s unique capability is identity warranting, i.e., proving that a person is who she says she is. This proof comes in three ways. First, Facebook profiles have an enormous amount of personal information that is difficult to create without intimate knowledge of the person. Second, the network of friends interlinked provide social proof that the profile is indeed who she says she is. Third, Facebook has information about interactions among these real people. The most important of these interactions are group photos, which firmly establish individuals and who they associate with.

With this core in place, Facebook is now unveiling the scaffolding necessary for every site to be social. Imagine if you can always see who the real people who are visiting a site at the same time as you. Imagine if your newsfeed on Facebook contained the highlights of everything your friends are doing anywhere, online or offline. Within five years, these visions will be so real you will not remember what our current anonymous Internet looks like.

Many individuals and sites may want to resist. This change is scary, no doubt! But I see it as inevitable because the immediate benefits to individuals and sites far outweigh the immediate costs. It is unclear whether the longer-term risks are worth it or not, but the short-term economics are too powerful in my opinion to resist.

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