Facebook’s imperial phase

There’s no shortage of global ambitions at Facebook, but the changes it’s due to make next week look set to catapult the social network into a whole new imperial phase.

It has always had a rather bullish attitude to both competitors and, somewhat more surprisingly, its own users.

New launches are designed to attack emerging threats, whether through the addition of the newsfeed (Twitter), Places (Foursquare) or by refining Friend Lists (Google+).

But Facebook also wants to push the boundaries of what its users are comfortable with, most notably when it comes to privacy.

The introduction of ‘passive sharing’ through the Timeline and Open Graph functions it announced on Thursday, and plans to introduce next week, are perhaps the boldest example of this.

The signing of a raft of new content deals, with companies such as Spotify, and the potential for users to share in realtime everything they read, listen to and watch, evokes a life-casting approach to social networking,

The broad brush approach makes sense for Facebook, which will immeasurably increase information on its users and can then feed into its ad targeting. But more than that, should Facebook ever have designs on tying up with Amazon (or perhaps want to be the next Amazon), the company would have the foundations for a very strong recommendation engine.

But for users already grappling with the new Friend Lists and deciding who sees what, the thought that soon everything they do could be streamed will be off-putting for many.

It’s already been argued that Facebook has eaten the web, and increasingly it looks like the company wants to be the web, with a future vision of itself as an inward-looking, closed web portal.

And if that happens then Facebook really will have reached its imperial phase.

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