The last couple of years have been pretty plain sailing for Facebook
as they have continued their world domination and headed past 700 million users. They've executed brilliantly, had great innovations like the "like" button and generally been ahead of the game with new features and updates while being embraced by the media, brands and small advertisers. For the first time Facebook have a little issue on their hands though and it's something that they are going to have to move on pretty fast because it's not a space you can afford to be slow in...Mobile.The competition is closing in from all sides in the form of Google and Apple and Facebook are going to have to be very nimble to get their positioning right because having a simple app in the future is not going to be enough. Here is where Facebook is under pressure form...
Facebook's app on the iPhone when it first came out was brilliant but it has barely been updated in over a year and it needs a complete overhaul. I see people giving out about it all the time and it's not very easy to use. It shows how quickly the playing field can shift and rather than small updates it feels like Facebook could do with a complete overhual of their app. It is especially poor for brands and businesses who manage Facebook pages and the app is extremely limiting. Facebook has nearly 300 million mobile users so providing them with a better user experience will be essential.
Make no mistake that Google and Facebook are in the middle of a war
at the moment over who will control the advertising dollars in the next few years but if there is one area where Google are making great strides it is through the mobile operating system Android. There is nothing inherently social about it yet but Google certainly sees the value in the space and are slowly rolling out a social layer across all of their platforms. They are starting with things like the +1 button, local deals, payment services and the key with all of this is that Google will have an operating system that is in billions of people's hands so if and when they do figure out social media you can be sure that will be baked in to the operating system. Facebook on the other hand are going to have a much harder time getting in to bed (despite it being an open platform) with Android given the Google connection.
Apple + Twitter
It was a surprise to most last week when Apple started adding some social layers to their operating system but they only went with Twitter instead of Facebook. Twitter is going to be having a very deep integration with iOS5 which will not only allow users to do things like share photos to Twitter instantly but also sign in to apps and services with their Twitter account. To a large extent Facebook has become our online identity with their connect product allowing us to sign in to websites etc but if people all start using Twitter as their default online identity across all of Apple's devices that is a very major problem for Facebook. They are just not at the races there.
So far it's been pretty quiet. They are as smart a company as you can get though and you have to think that they are working behind the scenes on something pretty major. There have long been rumors of a Facebook phone
and even a Facebook operating system
for phones but with a couple of the team that were heading up these efforts
leaving Facebook all might not be well behind the scenes. The one major signal that I would read in to is the lack of a Facebook iPad app which is telling. There are 25 million iPads out there but no sign of an iPad app but I am guessing that Facebook see mobile as a much bigger priority which is where they have all their resources directed at the moment. If Facebook wants to become the company that it already is online then it needs to step things up quickly in the mobile world. Having an app is no longer good enough and Facebook need to find a way of getting their services baked in to every phone on the planet.