Monday, May 10, 2010

Next Up in Facebook's Bid for World Domination

Few companies have the audacity to try to take over the entire internet the way Facebook intends to with its new "Open Graph" approach to hegemony. But then again, few companies can get 80 million people to publicly admit that they play a game called "Farmville." So instead of asking themselves if it's a good idea to rule the internet, Facebook's managers are asking themselves: is taking over people's experience of the internet really enough? Why not become the nation's top cellular service by next year, too?

Introducing: the FacePhone.

"The idea began in a happy accident," says Facebook board member Jim Breyer "when my profile got hacked. Phishers sent a message to two thousand or so of my friends asking if they'd like a Facebook phone number. The next day, I've got something like 600 messages complaining about emptied bank accounts and I thought--Wow! That's a sad scam, but there's obviously a lot of interest in this!"

Breyer took the idea to fellow board member Peter Thiel, and within twenty-four hours what might prove to be the idea of the decade was born.

"We'll be giving out FacePhones for free," says Thiel. "Using the FacePhone will also be absolutely free with no limits on pictures, texts, or even picture messages--to other FacePhone users."

And how much to call outside of the FacePhone network?

"The FacePhone will be like Facebook itself in that way," says Breyer, "your friends will have to join if they want to contact you. It's not possible to call out."

Thiel is confident, however, that this limitation won't be much of a concern. "On any given day, an average of 200 million people log into facebook. That's nearly 4% of the literate people in the world every day. Start offering them free cells phones linked to their accounts, and it won't be long until you can talk to everyone who's not a total techno-hermit on your FacePhone."

"Imagine never having to call anyone without checking their status line and most recent personal information first," says Breyer. "This is a big, big idea."

So how will Facebook pay for this?

"Ads are a factor, of course" says Thiel. "We're developing a system in which ads will be generated based on recent calls--if you've just spent an extended period with one company's customer service line, we'll bring up ads for their competitors. What company wouldn't pay top dollar for an opportunity like that? We'll also be charging for corporate accounts in the first place. Once we have a hundred million private users, most companies won't have much of a choice but to sign up for their own FacePhone lines--no matter what rate we set."

Won't companies be a little upset by that?

"Oh, I think the perks will outweigh the costs," says Breyer. "For a premium fee, we'll provide companies with some tools that help them make the most of user information. Let's say you run a movie theater: imagine being able to automatically send a message or coupon to every one of your contacts whose status includes the word 'bored.'"

"These aren't just free cell phones," says Thiel, "we're talking about a new and lucrative way to organize the world."

And what does Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg think of the plan?

"He's excited," says Thiel. "He's always looking for one more reason for the average person never to quit Facebook--we're confident that this will make Facebook even more essential not just as a product, but as the only socially acceptable 21st century way of life."

Like it or not, it seems clear that with its latest innovations, Facebook is doing just that. Geniuses like Napoleon, Hitler, and Pinky & the Brain may have failed, but Zuckerberg & Co. are showing that it's still possible to take over the world.

"Does this smile make me look evil?" -Peter Thiel


  1. They're just like Microsoft and especially Apple, having to have the whole pie to themselves. Usually these attempts at monopolies don't last long until a competitor can level the playing field, but in this case, a free phone will be hard to compete with. Still, they'll inevitably be second-rate phones, so anyone who wants good technology will pay for an upgrade and then, why not through a competitor that releases a Linux-based, adblock-enabled social-networking alternative? No one would actually prefer a dinky Facebook phone that advertises to them everywhere they go. Thus I think it's precisely Facebook's trying to take over the world that will form the rebellion and mark their downfall. The principles of decentralization and freedom will prevail.

  2. Freedom didn't beat the Qwerty keyboard. Yes, it's built to be slow so a typewriter won't jam. Yes, more effective alternatives have been designed, tested, and marketed. But when everyone else uses a Qwerty keyboard, it's awfully difficult to be the one who does not.

    I'm just sayin'.

  3. Yeah, the mainstream has and will always get stuck with bad decisions and systems. Unfortunately there are many people in this world who still sit down and endure hours of advertisements and whatever programming the TV sees fit to throw at them each day, but there's also a large movement of people switching to Tivo's, DVR's, DVD box sets or Internet programming, all of which are either much more free from ads if not entirely free. So I think that proves that there's enough people in this world to make a difference who feel that a bombarding of advertisements is an assault on their freedom. It amazes me that anyone can use Facebook without Adblock. But that's just me.

  4. I am pretty sure they will have their competitors. sadly sometimes the lesser product wins.. like beta vs vhs. I figure out every way to block ads.. which reminds me..adblock combined with flashplayer block is great. It works for most pages. I mean sometimes you have to click on the little button to allow a certain page since it blocks all flash. But since I installed it I have been living pretty much ad free.It is amazing.

  5. James, you should seriously apply to be a reporter for the Onion.

  6. I don't think the Onion is the kind of place anyone applies to seriously.

    I believe they consider anything serious to be in bad form.

  7. Three-month later follow-up: Google is developing a social phone service through gmail. Is facebook up next, or do they figure their hands are full enough handling their current product?


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