As a Facebook member, I have mixed feelings about today's announcement about look-and-feel changes that are coming to the site. Total strangers can now follow me without asking to be my friend. Fan pages will look just like profile pages. And the news feed becomes a live stream and adds some customization features (content, not appearance.) There's plenty of coverage about the changes and what they mean.
Also see: Jennifer Leggio: Facebook's fan page facelift diminishes brands
But as someone who watches tech companies and chimes in on their business models and strategic moves, I can't help but wonder how these changes to Facebook are going to help the site come up with a plan for making money. You'll recall that last fall, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company wouldn't have a revenue plan in place until 2011 and that the primary focus would be growing the user base.
At the time, I raised an eyebrow at the timeline but agreed that the company might do well to ride the economic storm by focusing on growing users instead of dollars. But that's when Facebook was adding innovative new capabilities to the site and coming across as a pioneer.
Today's changes don't feel very original. Instead, bloggers are talking about the new features as copycats to those already in place on Twitter and FriendFeed.
Could it be that Facebook is already being forced to play catch-up with other social media startups? Is the Facebook Frenzy being shadowed by a Twitter Tidal Wave? Did the Twitter segment on Nightline get more online page views than the Facebook feature on 60 Minutes?
Maybe it's inappropriate for me to ask the revenue question when the news of the day is clearly focused on a new look and feel to the site itself, not the financial future of the company. Back in October, when I posted the entry about Facebook holding out until 2011 for a revenue plan, I wondered if some other big thing on the Web might hit the scene and push Facebook to a back-burner before a revenue plan could be put into place.
It wouldn't be the first time one Web frenzy was replaced by another. After all, before the spotlight was focused on Facebook, all eyes were on MySpace.