Friday, May 25, 2007

NYTimes: Facebook Expands Into MySpace’s Territory

NYTimes: Facebook Expands Into MySpace’s Territory

SAN FRANCISCO, May 24 — With an ambitious strategy for expansion, Facebook is getting in MySpace’s face.

Noah Berger for The New York Times

Other Internet services are playing a role in Facebook’s expansion. Facebook, the Internet’s second-largest social network, was originally popular on college campuses, but over the last year it has opened its dorm-room doors to all, and its membership rolls have exploded at triple-digit growth rates.

Now Facebook, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is inviting thousands of technology companies and programmers to contribute features to its service. They can even make money from the site’s users by doing so, and, at least for now, Facebook will not take a cut.

Some of the new features, demonstrated by software developers at a Facebook event here on Thursday, will allow members to recommend and listen to music, insert Amazon book reviews onto their pages, play games and join charity drives, all without leaving the site.

See Facebook Application Directory []

The result is expected to be a proliferation of new tools and activities for Facebook’s 24 million active users, who have largely been limited to making online connections, sharing photos and planning events.

The move could foster some of the chaotic creativity that is more closely associated with MySpace, its larger competitor. It could also open the door to hazards like spam, and make Facebook’s identity less clear.

But Facebook is thinking big. In the parlance of its 23-year-old chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, the company is positioning itself as a “social operating system” for the Internet. It wants to sit at the center of its users’ online lives in the same way that Windows dominates their experience on a PC — while improving its own prospects for a lucrative acquisition or an eventual public offering.

“This may be the most important development since the company got started,” said Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist who was an early investor in Facebook and one of its three board members. “But the company is taking a massive gamble. There are lots of things that can go wrong with this.”

Facebook, which is largely supported by advertising, has gained significant momentum over the last year. Since the site opened up to nonstudents eight months ago, its membership has doubled to 24 million, according to the research firm ComScore. Users now spend an average of 14 minutes on the site every time they visit, up from eight minutes last September, according to Hitwise, a traffic measuring service.


Facebook does not have a music feature, but iLike, which along with Amazon and Microsoft was one of 65 companies that appeared at Facebook’s event, is one of several that plans to make music-related tools available on the site. If users choose to add iLike to their Facebook pages, the software will automatically see where they live and what bands and songs they say they enjoy. It will then recommend songs and local concerts.

“It’s exciting to build something that works so well in their world and to really engage in what was heretofore an off-limits, walled garden,” said PicksPal’s chief executive, Tom Jessiman.

Facebook hopes that thousands of outside companies will eventually build features for its site ... .



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