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Mark Zuckerberg Getting Hip to the Mandate of Kevin

Recent public statements by the socially awkward (but getting better now that he's feeling more comfortable in his own nerdy skin) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have at last convinced me that the second-largest and most-valuable social network is increasingly growing cognizant of its dependency on the prosumer. Zuckerberg's updated thoughts on decentralization (understanding the inevitability), monetization (finding the right niches) and democratization (a big theme in his recent interviews and statements) should serve to pacify those in the blogosphere who have been calling for his head in light of internal drama, digital rights debacles and a totally debunked revenue crisis.


Decentralization (above): "We're big believers in the idea that over time the value will decentralize from just being on Facebook to being spread out over the eco-system. Ultimately I think that's a really good thing. I think that's it's good for the web to have all of that functionality built into these different applications and I think that the place that Facebook will hold in the ecosystem will move more away from being a website to being more this platform and this representation of the graph." Full vid interview here.

In light of 1) the recent web chatter that Facebook and Twitter should be positioning to monetize their information through search, 2) Twitter's successful open developer strategy, 3) Zuckerberg's assertion that Facebook can expand its Connect platform to become a newfangled version of PayPal, and 4) the success of cross-platform comment app Disq.us, it seems obvious that Facebook is being tugged toward decentralization. The question is, how will Facebook manage decentralization, granular content control, and integration with other apps? The company seems to have realized that it must keep its prosumer nation happy. Hopefully understanding that this makes good business sense will make for a better Facebook experience. Ultimately, this approach will be key to keeping open-source competitors at arms length.

Monetization: "I think [a Facebook payment system] has the potential to be really important. Its potential correlates with how valuable it is to developers and users. There’s a bunch of things that we test as a company, and we basically choose what to invest in based on what people are doing. I don’t really have anything new to add to the information that you already have on this. ... But based on how our tests go, we may choose to do a lot more. We’re pretty optimistic [about the potential performance of the payments service], but we don’t really have a sense of how big it will be yet either. I do think it is one interesting area."

Thoughtful, deliberate testing is key for a company of that size. A payment system seems critical, especially if the bigger goal is to empower constituent prosumers as they transfer data and content. Listening to users is Rule #1 of web businesses. Allowing them the freedom to discover the value, then amplifying those processes and monetizing indirectly seems like the rule of thumb for large prosumer businesses looking to innovate rapidly. Gotta stay in tune with that moving target known as the Mandate of Kevin.

Democratization: "Growing rapidly to 200 million users is a really good start, but we've always known that in order for Facebook to help people represent everything that is happening in their world, everyone needs to have a voice. This is why we are working hard to build a service that everyone, everywhere can use, whether they are a person, a company, a president or an organization working for change. ... There are still many more people and groups in the world whose voices we want to connect with everyone who wants to hear them. So even as we celebrate the 200 millionth person and all of you using Facebook today, we are working to bring the power of sharing to everyone in the world."

Many will chalk up this talk as rhetorical fluff, but given that Zuckerberg seems to be taking a personal stake in the gradual democratization of Facebook, I think it's quite likely the company will increasingly take the allegiance of the prosumer base more seriously. Why? Because that's where the money will come from.

Prosumer Empowerment = $$$$$$: Really, it is irrelevant whether or not Zuckerberg's recent public posturing is rooted in genuine benevolence. What matters is that the Facebook apparatus appears to be smart enough to realize that Monetization opportunities are correlated with the Empowerment that comes with natural Decentralization and/or Democratization, thus abiding by the Mandate of Kevin and developing a increasingly compelling system that will deliver more informational and financial value to its users - the 200 million + and growing Kevins.

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