Facebook Platform – the long tail of communications?

In Jane Austen’s time two people could only communicate in two ways: in person or by letter.

In person is the best communication medium conveying the most information (see photo). It is like a big pipe allowing lots of signals in addition to speech. Think of body language, reactions, and even smell.

By letter, is a small pipe between two people allowing only words and the odd diagram and squiggle. Our communication is constricted – like a small bandwidth connection.

Then the telephone arrived and provided a new, medium-sized pipe – synchronous conversation without having to be there in person. Better than a letter but not as good as being there in person.

So different communications media have different bandwidth. I shared this with Dave Morin from Facebook and Narinder from Nokia today at the Future of Web Apps conference in London.

Then we thought, what if you think of the Facebook platform as a new communications medium. I think it provides us a new “long tail” way of relating to each other. Now you can maintain really small bandwidth connections to the long tail of your social network – for example to take up less bandwidth than email we can now get away with a “Poke”. If a Poke is too much then I can use My Aquarium to send a small sucker fish to a friend.

This still may be even too much and if you’re friends with Dave Morin he points out that with Fluff Friends you can just pet his online penguin!

So now with Facebook we can communicate down the long tail of relationships – small interactions with distant friends (and work colleages) that wouldn’t normally be worth it are now possible.

The implications for business are significant – no more the primitive shouting of direct mail or a cold call phone call that can be so irritating from minor suppliers – now my local Sushi restaurant that I visit only twice a year can remind me of its existence by gently popping an Octopus in my virtual fish tank….


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