As ludicrous as this may sound, it is actually much more of a reality than you might realise, or want to admit. And just to be clear, I'm not talking a single-page gateway to content as we already have that with Google. What I'm talking about is a single page through which our entire online activity is channeled.
Over the past year or so, Facebook have subtley been making changes to the site structure that sees more and more emphasis being placed on the main newsfeed when you log in, as well as increased functionality through posts within newsfeeds. Now while it is something of a leap to think that the web of the future will be owned entirely by Facebook (though I am not actually ruling this out), it is entirely plausible to see how Facebook could in theory, effectively offer an internet experience that is based entirely within one page: the Facebook newsfeed.
Far from the internet developing into an endless, sprawling mass of pages and links to navigate through, we could actually see that all stripped back to one single page.
Interact within the newsfeed
Even more than the concept of a single-page website, Facebook is almost offering a complete experience of the site within the chat bar. Recent update rollouts have seen increased functionality through posts in the latest news ticker, being able to interact with content without having to leave the sidebar, as well as posting or sharing to your own profile. This goes for all content within Facebook, including brands you like as well as your friends:
Purchase in the newsfeed
As well as consuming/sharing content, we're consistently seeing brands innovate through the newsfeed, in recognition of the fact that more of us are spending time on this single page, than we are going direct to brand pages. Using Facebook Credits, it's now possible to develop apps that allow you to purchase products directly within the Facebook newsfeed.
Many brands are taking advantage of this to offer new ways of purchasing goods, though it is currently fairly limited to goods purchased in-games. Combine this with the fact that you can also share purchases with friends within the newsfeed, where in turn they can purchase the product themselves through the newsfeed and it's not too much of a stretch to imagine never having to leave the newsfeed to buy a product again.
The more that Facebook are focusing on channeling activity through the newsfeed, the higher the rake of content we are faced with. This is just about manageable now, but Facebook will need to do a bit of reconfiguring with the way in which the newsfeed is filtered, if more content is to be driven through here. This is going to require advancement on Facebook's side for filtering through EdgeRank to serve us with the best content, combined with manual filtering options, which are currently limited to non-existent.
While Facebook is currently filtering content on the main newsfeed through determining whose profiles you visit most frequently etc. (via EdgeRank), it is currently too restrictive. Should Facebook add in the option to filter content such as filtering between brands/friends or content type, then the Facebook homepage could become an incredibly useful way to source and archive information.
27% of Facebook browsing is through the newsfeed
If you're still sceptical about the single-page vision, how about the fact that 27 per cent of browsing on Facebook is currently done through the homepage/newsfeed? Or that this 27 per cent of Facebook time equates to 4 per cent of the total time spent online in the U.S. in May 2011? Putting into perspective like this doesn't make it such an outlandish prediction after all. 4 per cent of the time being spent online is solely through a single page: Facebook's news feed.
The missing link
If the single page web were to come into fruition, there is of course a lot that Facebook has to introduce in order to make this a reality, as well as the fact that this would require every other page on the internet ceasing to exist unless through Facebook. However, looking at it from pure logistics, there are some things Facebook need to add to effectively manage the traffic that is passing through the page already, but nowhere is this more apparent than in search.
A credible search option is still noticeably absent from Facebook, and this presents perhaps one of their biggest opportunities ever. If they can get people away from Google and onto Facebook, they have effectively reached the holy grail of the internet world and slaked Google's tremendous growth curve.
And the way in which Facebook can maximise this, is to use their single biggest resource that no other website can contend with: people. Facebook has access to over 800 million users who are already doing the job of a search engine, only better. All day long we are actively sharing content with friends, both proactively and reactively. If Facebook can find a way to organise and facilitate this to create a truly human-powered search engine. This is Facebook's single biggest opportunity right now, and one in which they have the longest way to to go (albeit that we have no idea what Facebook are cooking up behind closed doors).
The growth of web pages has accelerated at a fascinating level. It has been years since it's been possible to view every single web page in existence in one lifetime. But imagine if you could consume every single piece of information online through one single web page, without ever having to leave?