Facebook F8: Is Facebook a ‘social operating system’?


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Facebook made a lot of big news Thursday at its annual F8 developer conference. But what does the Timeline profile redesign, the Open Graph apps allowing people to connect to things in new ways (like, read, listen, watch) actually all mean for both users and developers?

I posed that question to Joe Green, co-founder of Causes and Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate; Dave Morin, co-founder and CEO of Path and a former executive at Facebook and Apple; and Alex Ljung, co-founder and CEO of SoundCloud -- three of Facebook’s launch partners for its new Open Graph apps who were at F8 in San Francisco.


Green and Morin described the changes as pushing Facebook from being simply a social network toward being a social operating system.

Photos: The many faces of Facebook

‘I think a lot of us start our day with Facebook today,’ Morin said. ‘The reason that this is called Facebook Platform is for this reason, right? It’s a platform for building social applications.’

Morin should know. While at Facebook, he was one of the creators of the Facebook Platform that allowed developers to build Facebook apps.

‘I think the social operating system is here,’ he said. ‘And the Timeline is the future consumer interface for everything. And so the old metaphors of operating systems, I think, are over and now I think this is the future.’

Green agreed, noting that Facebook’s influence as the most widely used social network has, so far, helped define what a social network is.


‘Facebook really is innovative on the interface,’ he said. ‘When they introduced Newsfeed, everyone else started talking about feeds, everything was chronological feeds. They’re not the first person to organize things chronologically, I mean blogs were chronological, but this idea of a feed.’

‘And now Timeline is a fundamentally new interface and I think you’ll see that -- I don’t know if you’ll see a lot of copycats -- you’ll see that interface, I think, really, really fundamentally changing things.’

Ljung said the social operating system concept is a sound one and accurate for Facebook.

‘I think if you’re building an app today for the Web, you have to take Facebook into consideration, and it can be a tremendous help in getting reach and getting users engaged,’ he said. ‘But there’s also -- that means that it’s on their terms in some ways as well. Thankfully so far they keep reinventing what they’re doing and adding new and interesting things in a good way. But it is, they are -- they have a lot of the fundamentals of the social OS somehow.

‘I think a good thing about that, in the way that they’re doing it, is that it’s easy for other people to tap into it … it’s become quite easy for people to build inherently social products with the help of Faceook and I think that’s a really good thing.’

To hear my interviews in full, check out these recordings posted to SoundCloud...

Dave Morin, CEO of Path, and Joe Green, CEO of Causes

Alex Ljung, CEO of SoundCloud


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles