Facebook right now is more about playing around than anything else. Still, as I continue to read one of the most fascinating and mind-bending books (Guns, Germs, and Steel), I am reminded that the history of technology is replete with examples of inventions looking for an application. Gasoline, airplanes, the internal combustion engine, sticky-notes, the steam engine, the phonograph - they're all inventions whose utility was only discovered well after their initial "invention" and mostly by people other than the inventor himself.
Facebook itself appears to be an innovation whose value and application surpassed that of its founders, much like the World Wide Web itself. But what about business and Facebook? Is social networking of value to business? What parts of the technology can be adapted for use in business?
As of today, I have only discovered 2 other people from Pano Cap Canada on Facebook. That's hardly enough to determine whether Facebook has business utility. But if I were to shift the question slightly and ask about professional utility, the question would seem almost vacuous. Certainly, there is professional utility to a social networking tool that allows individuals and groups to organize and share information quickly and efficiently. The social grid architecture of Facebook means that any shared venture can benefit.
Yes, there are many other collaborative tools out there specifically designed for teams and projects, but the open-ended nature of Facebook and the low cost of participation make it unique, I think. That architecture and openness must mean that there is business utility.
This next week I will be attending a Microsoft event called Energize IT. The sessions will deal with Microsoft technology, but one of the things I'm looking forward to is talking to all the Microsoft and professional contacts I've established through Facebook to address this question about using Facebook for business.
This weekend with Microsoft will be partially about play. I think the big guys are getting the message. Play is critical to developing useful applications. It's critical to building relationships. It's critical to lateral thinking and the application of technology to novel areas, to discovering utility for tools made for other purposes.