Facebook Power (digitalmediabuzz)

The story below was posted on DigitalMediaBuzz.com in Sept. 2009. Story is posted here for archiving purposes only since original was lost when the site went down.

Though its newest project was that of a “lite” version, Facebook’s strategic attack on the internet is everything but.

The social networking powerhouse continues to grow its user base, now to the tune of about 250 million people worldwide, including about 120 million of them that interactwithoneanother at least once each day.

With the recent unveiling of FacebookLite – a lighter version of the site, the company is now catering to even more people.

The backdrop of Facebook’s strategy of a real-time web search led many insiders to believe that the Facebook Lite version was something that could rival Twitter, or FriendFeed, which the company purchased only a couple months ago.

Facebook, however, shot down those rumors with an official release and laid claim to the purpose behind the lite site.

“Similar to the Facebook experience you get on your mobile phones, Facebook “Lite” is a fast-loading, simplified version of Facebook that enables people to make comments, accept Friend requests, write on people’s Walls, and look at photos and Status updates,” an official release said.

“We are currently testing Facebook Lite in countries where we are seeing lots of new users coming to Facebook for the first time and are looking to start off with a more simple experience.”

Facebook’s reasoning is legit and works in two ways. For those new users in developing countries, quicker internet connections are not always available (this still holds true for many rural environments in the United States). It also provides heavy users who dissliked all the newest features with a separate version that contains only the bare necessities.

On the surface, the Lite version continues to cater to the user, but developers around the world are correct in looking for deeper meaning.The plans that founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg possesses branch much further than simply developing a gathering place for friends.

Facebook’s users have turned the site into a content generator, a user-picture hub, a business marketing tool, an application developer’s dream and Google’s worst nightmare.

All of Facebook’s content is located within the actual site and not available to search engine algorithms. A link to your profile will show in searches, but not other content unless you allow everyone access to your account.

As Wired reported last month, Zuckerberg is banking on the belief that users would rather search their social network to find anything on the Internet than “the cold mathematics of a Google search.” Adding engineers from FriendFeed also adds to the search focus, delivering on greater real-time results.

With the users and content in hand, Facebook’s monetization can come from a detailed advertising plan. Whereas Google’s AdSense delivers ads based on keywords, Facebook can deliver ads to users’ specific likes and interests – based solely on their information found in their Facebook profile.

In a recent speech, Zuckerberg said the advertising option presents an opportunity to branch out the idea to other sites that interact with Facebook through the likes of applications or Facebook Connect.

Big plans, however, require talent. And a recession in the nation’s economy isn’t slowing the giant.

Bloomberg reported last week that Facebook Inc. is expected to expand its staff by 40-50 percent in 2009.

“No one else has been hiring,” Zuckerberg told Bloomberg. “It’s been a great environment for us because the economy has helped out.”

Facebook’s future plans, bolstered with the acquisition of FriendFeed, have led many speculators to do what they do best – ponder what’s next for the competition. With Microsoft and Yahoo joining forces, the only logical combination remaining is Google and Twitter.

“Twoogle?” asks Kara Swisher, of All Things Digital.

“Linking up Twitter and Google is certainly a big idea, giving Google de facto ownership of real-time search, a big lift in the status-update game and yet another major innovative Internet name brand,” Swisher says.

“It would also likely ensure that Twitter will dominate its sector for a very long time.”

A combination such as that could make even bigger noise when Google unleashes Google Wave to the public. The Twitter growth, and user base, could slide right into Wave and make it an even more dynamic project out of the box.

Will it happen? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. But one thing is for sure, Facebook’s moves and ever-increasing power have forced its competition’s hand. The social network has, in essence, declared war on the future of the Internet.

And with 250-plus million people behind it, the site’s power is no joke. Even Hollywoodwants a piece.