Is Facebook Becoming the Internet?

Publisher�s Outlook

Is Facebook Becoming the Internet?

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation  |  April 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

In the past, I have discussed the concept of splinternet (a term Forrester (News - Alert) researchers say I may have invented), where the Internet splinters into app stores and websites such as Facebook (News - Alert) – a world where developers have to spend their time constantly optimizing their content for platform after platform.

For example, to be a successful developer today you have to build an iPhone app as well as one for Android (News - Alert) and BlackBerry – then perhaps a PC app, a Mac app, a web version, a Facebook app and perhaps a version for gaming consoles such as Xbox, and you should consider building a widget for a number of the TV manufacturers out there.

But as Facebook has grown in power and influence, it is becoming a more important slice of the pie and, as such, developers are looking to it as a platform to start developing on first. Certainly Zynga – the company behind Facebook games such as FarmVille and CityVille – being worth about $10 billion hasn't put a dent in this idea. But it isn't just the developers moving to Facebook. One newspaper, Rockville Central, has decided to move all of its content to the social networking site and cease putting fresh content on its own site entirely.

Erik Ledbetter, a Facebook user, was a bit concerned about the move, mentioning he uses Facebook but doesn't like to have a news source intertwined with his friend updates because his mental space is now being intruded upon. This is an interesting point because I have a mix of friends, relatives and business contacts on the social networking site, and I generally post mostly work-related content – meaning my non-work connections have to deal with the same issue each day. Sorry about that.

But getting back to the paper: If you publish exclusively on Facebook, your costs go down a bit, as you don't have to deal with the web hosting side of the business. But the cost to manage a site isn't so high – and here is the interesting part of the story. Rockville Central is not only getting a revenue share on any advertisements, but it is refunding money to advertisers who have already spent money on the site. This is according to founder and publisher Brad Rourke, who told me this today via – you guessed it – Facebook.

I asked what the largest benefit the company had to move to Facebook, and I haven't heard back yet. But it makes you wonder if all the publicity around this move won't prompt the social networking company to use the newspaper as an example – promote it, start a revenue share business and then aggressively court other media companies to move exclusively to the platform as well.

So the question worth asking is: Will more news sources move to Facebook as their platform of choice, forgoing their own websites? Moreover, will we see more content sites leave behind having to deal with HTML in favor of simply posting on this ubiquitous social network? And if so, does Facebook's dominance and ability to wield power in ways that can crush other companies it doesn't like become more of a concern than even Google (News - Alert)?

Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi