Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Facebook’s Next Steps–Still to Come: A TV Show?

In what seems like a showy look-at-me event this afternoon in San Francisco, Facebook will host the “unveiling of the next evolution” of the No. 2 social-networking site, including the introduction of the “Facebook Platform.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that it will let third-party developers have a crack at annoying–oh, I am sorry, helping–its 23 million users. That means they can market to this giant population in a variety of ways, including selling services and products. A raft of partners will be announced at the event.

But sources say the program laid out will be even more substantial, although Facebook was clamming up about exactly what it would say. It will obviously not be an IPO announcement, which is likely to come at some point, after Facebook spurned Yahoo’s offer of $1.5 billion last year. Its big investors, like Accel Partners and Greylock Partners, have put $38 million into Facebook and will eventually want a lucrative out.

Could it be the television show the company is considering doing with Cox Communications, which is a big secret (oops, not anymore!)? According to sources, the show would center around the members of the service, which feels like a move to keep up with the other Web 2.0 wunderkinds over at Digg, who have their own shows.

But the announcement today will center on the third-party partners. Their offerings could mean anything from letting users share music to allowing them to get news feeds right in Facebook. Previously, companies could make their own pages on the site, but this move would allow them to link into people’s whole networks.

owen van natta

If you think the news-feed controversy at Facebook was bad, I can’t wait until Amazon starts bugging me to buy Barry Manilow CDs, because Facebook COO Owen Van Natta (one of my “friends” on the service and pictured here in a very strange photo he has on his profile) lets them have at me.

This Wall Street Journal article on Monday outlined the effort, which I predicted in this post a few weeks ago.

That article called it a portal play by Facebook, but I certainly hope they don’t bandy around that tired old concept in new clothes onstage today. Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old Facebook founder, has talked to me and many others about Facebook as more than a social network.

In fact, he has used the unusual term “utility” to describe his dream, which only made me think that my gas bill was way too high.

From a financial perspective, the move is aimed at boosting revenue obviously, as the Facebook team has been trying hard to figure out a way to monetize its popularity, which is no small thing.

Most of the company’s $150 million in revenue comes from its ad deal last year with Microsoft, which was–let’s not gild the lily–a desperation move on its part after losing the more attractive MySpace ad deal to Google. But it allowed Facebook to get very good terms.

That largesse obviously cannot last forever (well, it can until 2011, when the deal ends). And Facebook certainly cannot build a real business on one it is fond of touting–selling goofy $1 icon “gifts” that users send to each other on the service. A digital cupcake? Um, thanks for nothing!

But Facebook does have its growth, which is exploding and growing faster than MySpace. But faster does not mean bigger by a long shot. The MySpace juggernaut still dominates the social-networking party; recent statistics show it garners 80% of all visits in the arena, compared to Facebook’s 12% and Bebo’s 1.3%.

More important, MySpace is a traffic firehose, sending its clickstream all over the Web, which is attractive to all sorts of partners.

Just the kind, in fact, that Facebook hopes to benefit from.