It is once again time for Facebooks annual developers conference, f8 and once again Facebook proves their ability to impress me. Over the years, Facebook has gone through a transition from just a social network to a cross-platform platform before becoming a digital ecosystem and a family of stand-alone apps centered around your digital identity. This is the key component that gives Facebooks ecosystem a competitive advantage against Apple, Amazon and Google. As long as Facebook maintains your personal and social digital identify in a user-friendly way, the switching cost is too high for most users for anyone to challenge Facebooks position.
The idea that Facebook is going out of style and therefore is losing its position is merely wishful thinking based on subjective beliefs rather than facts. Whereas ‘coolness’ is difficult to measure, it is also an irrelevant metric. The fact that conversations does no longer happen on each other’s walls does not mean that use has dropped, the usage has just moved elsewhere. Just because something is considered uncool does not mean it seizes to be useful. Facebook announced at this year’s f8 that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger handle 60 billion messages a day — three times the number of traditional text messages. Catching up to Wechat in China and Kakao Talk in South Korea, proving that instant messaging is a key component in the ecosystem.
As Facebook as a whole evolves, so does each of the products in the Facebook ecosystem. Not long ago, Facebook Messenger was an integrated function on the social network and Facebook platform. Already at last year’s f8, Facebook announced Messenger as a platform. At day one of this year’s conference Facebook launched the beta version of the platform with APIs that enables developers to create their own chat bots. (Which reminds me of writing bots for various IRC clients 20 years ago. Those were the days). However, Facebook does not limit themselves to simple text-based bots of the past. Facebooks bot engine seeks to enable users to create more complex bots, thus enabling conversational shopping thought the messenger platform. To demonstrate this, Zuckerberg demonstrated how he could order flowers within the messenger platform. Combined with Facebook Pay, Facebook could really shake things up in traditional eCommerce and Payments.
Together with both the Facebook pages platform, App Center and Opengraph the evolution of the messenger platform shows that Facebook is no longer just a digital ecosystem of different products and applications, but a digital ecosystem of platforms with their own APIs and third party content and connections.
To leave no doubt about Facebooks ecossytem ambitions, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebooks ten-year roadmap, showing the overall vision for the further development of the ecosystem. Proving that the evolution of Facebook is just getting started.