Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mashups Meet SaaS: Facebook's Integration with Makes Networking Simple

Given that LinkedIn's professional social network content has been available through's AppExchange service for nearly six months is it really a big deal that there's now a Facebook interface as well? As seen in Programmable Web's flash demo it's a fairly rudimentary integration: if you add a contact you can select their Facebook profile for inclusion in your SFDC desktop and use many of Facebook's functions and applications to communicate with people in their social networks. That's hardly rocket science but it's an excellent indication of the strengths that can be gained from using a social networking content service as a drop-in module in a software-as-a-service desktop environment.

Most importantly, though, it's an indication of how quickly two content services can benefit from one another's mutual presence in SaaS very rapidly with virtually no integration requirements. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with social networking enables its clients to tap into the networks that matter most to their sales efforts. With Facebook's more multi-dimensional view of people's personal and professional lives it's possible that sales professionals will get a different kind of introduction than one might get from a LinkedIn referral. LinkedIn provides excellent professionally-oriented networking tools but there's something about telling someone, "Hey, I saw your profile on Facebook, I see that you're into sailing" that's a little more personal and conversational. Moreover it's a window through Facebook's programming interface into functionality that they have on their own platform that in essence gives one embedded applications within an application that's embedded in a SaaS platform. That's powerful content integration that can work to extend the value of both the hosting platform and the embedded platform as valuable contexts for content very rapidly.

While Facebook is having its ups and downs in terms of traffic, personal content exposure issues and integration complaints the growth of its use in professional circles over the past several months has been extraordinary. Although it's mostly a few brave people that venture beyond the basics of Facebooking, professionals are becoming much more used to the idea that their professional lives count increasingly on their ability to project their value and depth as a multi-dimensional person, rather than just a set of skills that can be marketed as useful but disposable labor. The old adage "it's not what you know but who you know" is taking on a new twist as online networking creates a new hook into effective business relationships.

At the same time most business information companies are standing still in comparison to companies like and Facebook when it comes to encouraging on-the-fly content integration with their products. With a strong focus on traditional integration of content into structured databases the opportunity to provide a looser level of integration into a workflow-centric platform. There are strong opportunities for such integration in major market verticals, so expect this to happen over time. But with pushing its initiative to provide "platforms as a service" for various corporate functions the time to move on such initiatives is now, not later. We may not be seeing Facebook as a networking tool on Bloombergs any time soon but there are plenty of markets where such rapid content integrations will benefit companies trying to put content in the most valuable context possible.
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