Guest Post by Venessa Miemis, The Future of Facebook Project, excerpts from full blog post at EmergentByDesign.com
Credits as Currency
Facebook Credits are a virtual currency used within Facebook for the purchase of virtual goods related to applications managed on the Facebook platform. They’re like tokens you’d use to play games at Chuck E. Cheese’s — great for casual entertainment, but not particularly threatening to the real world economy. Yet.
“Increasingly, as we move later into the decade, physical currency will be harder to differentiate from virtual currencies like Facebook Credits,” said Brett King, author of Bank 2.0. “We’ll start to see a new economy emerging through social media where virtual currencies will be a very real part of the way people trade and sell information, collaborate on ideas and value various products and services.”
“We may see a kind of gamification of the real world take place through Facebook Credits, where a variety of outside vendors, businesses, and service providers can give us Facebook Credits, enable us to pay with Facebook Credits, and reward us with Facebook Credits for taking actions that they want us to take,” explained Nova Spivack, a technology entrepreneur and founder of Lucid Ventures.
Identity as Currency
Every time you upload a photo, make a comment, add a friend, click a link, or make a purchase, that data is being harvested to create a map of you. By analyzing slices of this data, a wealth of information can be extracted and predicted about you. As a related example, Google vice-president Marissa Meyer claimed at this year’s SXSW festival, credit card companies can look at spending habits and predict with 98% accuracy, two years in advance, when a couple is going to divorce. “[Identity] will become the battleground within which this entire learning will take place, because today all the artifacts of a human being belong to physical and logical governments, and not to social networks. But the ability to move any form of asset between the virtual world and the physical world needs a commonality of understanding of identity,” said JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist for salesforce.com.
Reputation as Currency
Just as a positive score in your eBay account matters if you plan to continue doing business there, we’re on the verge of having robust social scoring metrics that will become increasingly important for businesses and individuals to consider.
When the opinions about a brand can be displayed more robustly, we’ll know not only that you “like” a brand, but why. This gives information on both sides — the reputation of the brand, and the values of the individual. As Brett King pointed out, “Social metrics, and the use of platforms like Facebook will have very real feedback in respect to the valuation of a brand economically, and obviously that will have an effect directly on revenues that are possible for providers in that space. So unless you’re playing in the social brand space, unless you’re engaged in the conversation, your social metrics are going to be affected in a negative way, and that will have an effect on revenue, profitability, and the value of your brand.”
As technology writer Kevin Kelly said, “What we know from our very short history of living online is that community precedes commerce; there’s no commerce without community. What Facebook is doing is sort of blowing up the community to be 500 million or even a billion very soon. When we have a community of a billion, it means that the potential for commerce is enormous, is immense, and we’ve never seen that before.”
Facebook will continue to grow and face new challenges as it threatens the control that traditional institutional structures have had over currency and personal identity. The implications of one entity owning this amount of information is beyond the scope of this article, but it certainly deserves a critical assessment. That huge privacy breach and wake up call hasn’t happened yet, so it’s not too late to ask what’s at stake when your data is contained in someone else’s silo.