This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
The recent changes announced at Facebook’s F8 conference solidifies their place as the first real social infrastructure for the web and this is very important for a number of reasons. At a high level, it’s important to understand that technology innovations alone are meaningless. What matters is how new technology advances or enhances previously existing technology. People refer to this as a “technology stack.” Consider the time when Benjamin Franklin unveiled electricity. Only until wires were installed across the country were we able to first leverage his invention in new ways. Once we had electricity, people were able to build up the stack and create new devices and technologies on top of one another.
Fast forward a bit to the computer age. Computers came out and made math computations a simple task. Then software came along and made the hardware that much easier to use. Again, building up the stack. Then came the internet which connected computers with one another across the world. Another layer called Google made it even easier to navigate information through this complex network and this changed everything. For the first time people were able to go to a little box and tell a machine exactly what they were looking for and the machine, would in turn, give us the results we were seeking.
And now we have Facebook and their recent changes. This is a company that built its core assets by having people tell them exactly who they are. And yesterday, Facebook made these assets open for the world to leverage – a true social infrastructure on top of the web. This could be equally as important, if not more important than Google. This is also why Google is publicly concerned about Facebook’s growth. Consider the widely popular phrase, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” At a physical level, this saying could be transposed to “It’s not Google, but it’s Facebook.” And there are very real implications here that extend to all facets of our society from news and entertainment to e-commerce and travel. We are at place where third party apps and companies can leverage an already existing infrastructure to build businesses and efficiencies in new ways. This is a new part of the technology stack.
Spotify, the new music service, is the quintessential example of this and it’s probably why Facebook included them as a partner during their F8 event. If you think about how you listen to music you’d realize that you are inherently interested in what your friends are listening to. I’d say 90% of all music I listen to today is a direct result of advice or suggestions I’d be given once upon a time by friends.
These social implications extend to commerce as well. Let’s say you are in the market to buy a new bicycle. And let’s say you read all of the consumer reviews and after compiling thousands of reviews you decide that you are going to buy the Cozmo bike. But now let’s say the night before you make a purchase you have dinner with friends. And at dinner, you tell them you are going to buy a bike the next morning and your best friend interrupts and says, “I just bought a Rocket bike and it’s awesome. Way better than my crappy Cozmo bike.” In about one second your entire data set gets thrown out the window. Your friend just influenced your buying decision. Today however, these friends are online. And so are bicycle stores. So you can see that real-time purchasing decisions no longer happen in a vacuum as they are influenced by your social network.
This is where the world is going. Spotify and the Cozmo bike story are just two examples of how social connectivity can reshape traditional processes and establishments. We are just at the tip of the iceberg. Real businesses with real societal implications can leverage this social infrastructure in new and meaningful ways. If you are an entrepreneur, this is a very exciting time to be thinking about what the world could look like with a truly connected social ecosystem that has building blocks for you to use.