“We don’t know what it is yet. We don’t know what it is! We don’t know what it can be, we don’t know what it will be. We know that it is cool.” These words, spoken by
Michael Cera Jessi Eisenberg in The Social Network, described Facebook pretty well in its early days (as well as a lot of other web services). It could just as easily describe the service today. I know what I use Facebook for. I share news and whatnot. Maybe you guys play those dumb games, but I don’t. I hear Facebook rents movies now. And there’s status updates and photos. There’s a lot to do on Facebook! And soon, if Forbes is right, you’ll have a new thing to waste time on: News.
Now, if you’re like me, this is what Facebook already is. Link sharing is one of three fundamental features that makes Facebook even remotely useful (and it stopped being fun a good two years ago). However, allegedly combining the power of Facebook fan pages and…um…the like button? …This new service would serve as a publication made specifically to get news into the hands of Facebook users. According to Forbes, Facebook is already working with the folks at The Daily, CNN, and The Washington Post to this end.
Which, frankly, raises the question….um, why are they working with content providers? The Daily, in particular, is the most curious. The Daily was created specifically to be a paid blog alternative, catering to iPad users who are notorious for spending plenty of money and enjoying things be “nice” rather than “free”. I guess. It seems like a load of bollocks either way, but that’s the idea. So, I’m not sure where Facebook, with its 700+ million users who all use the site for free, fit in. Especially when a large portion of what Facebook users already do on their own is news aggregation.
As if that weren’t weird enough, however, Forbes, as well as an independent report from DigitalTrends, says Google is doing the same thing. This is weird because Google is already in the news aggregation business. DigitalTrends speculates that this will function similarly to how Yahoo! or MSNBC approach news delivery, though it would certainly be a change in direction, as news organizations have typically been pretty unhappy with Google News and their nasty habit of linking to content without permission (which is entirely legal).
Google recently announced at an earnings call, with special guest Larry Page, that there’s already over 10 million Google+ users active. While it doesn’t hold a candle to Facebook’s excess of 700 million users, the two companies have begun moving towards each other. Google+ is an attempt on Google’s part to consolidate and brand all of the many services the big G has to offer into one social platform, while Facebook is a social platform that is looking to build enough online services to keep you in their ecosystem.
News aggregation and delivery is just the next logical step in that progression. Even if it’s also silly.