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the illusion of a grand audience

Facebook has been rising in the ranks as one of the best known and used social networks in the world. One of the reasons that facebook is so successful has to do with how it allows you to think that you are broadcasting your life to the world. It enables you to add contacts to your list and broadcast your ideas, actions and events to them usign the various feeds of content and status that are available but this provides an illusion, namely the feeling that a larger audience is "listening" to your productions than just those people on your contact list. You may not think this at the moment that you are updating your profile with your latest status event but the fact that Facebook allows you to do this to your list, gives the illusion that you are broadcasting to the world...even if "world" is only a subset of those people on the Facebook site that can receive your feeds.

I think this is a powerful enticement for existing users to continue to post items to their profiles, weather they be images, video or audio files and links or just status updates. In this way Facebook emulates the abilities of several other social like networks that are attempting to focus on a particular area of expertise. For example, Facebook allows you to create galleries of images and upload your images to those galleries and then make those galleries available in a selective fashion to either the Facebook community or to your network or even to a specific number of users, this fine grained ability to segment how much of your content you expose to others makes it very much like the popular Flickr site..but it lacks many of the advanced and image specific features that ensure that Flickr is known as only a "photo sharing site" as opposed to a social network. If Facebook decided to, they could easily cannibalize the market of Flickr by adding extended image sharing capabilities to their existing photo services. This would allow them to leverage the massive number of users being added to the Facebook platform on a daily basis and then direct them to use the expanding photo manipulation and presentation features. The same is true with regards to uploaded video files, Facebook could easily become more like Youtube by emulating the uploading features which that specialty site uses to define its uniqueness. Facebook can leverage the social aspect of its massive and rapidly growing network to steal users from those other services which are also very large but restricted only to specific actions. I doubt it will be long before Facebook decided to extend itself into these areas (and more) once it has reached what it deems to be sufficient critical mass (in terms of users) that it can constitute a viable competitor to the dedicated sites for hosting and sharing such content.

That said, the ideal distribution method for the average internet user is not to restrict it to specifid online silo's of distribution, rather people want to share content of any type, at any time with the specific set of people that they wish. Some content is desired to be available for general consumption but many businesses want to share content only with specific clients or with prospective clients at specific times. As it it is now the landscape lacks an option to provide this service for both businesses and consumers. Still, the illusion of a grand audience is a powerful motivating factor toward getting existing Facebook users to continue to send out status updates and upload media to the site thinking the entire world is actually listening to their broadcasts ...even when it is only restricted to those individuals on their friends list. ;)


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