I am working on a manuscript, Problem-Solving via the Internet: An Alternative to Nation-States, Governments, and Politics in which open Internet problem-solving networks (e.g., Wikipedia, Peer-to-Patent) are presented as the most efficient and effective institutions to solve problems, now that we’re in in what I call the Internet+ Age. (By “Internet+” I mean the Internet plus (+) attendant hardware (e.g., smartphones) and software (e.g., the cloud, Google))
In the Chicago Tribune article below, Facebook Groups/”communities”, as described by Mark Zuckerberg, are similar to my open Internet problem-solving networks. (I have bolded the most appropriate sentences.)
Facebook mission: Society building
CEO Zuckerberg aims to fight ills with virtual communities
Dressed in his signature solid-color T-shirt and jeans, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came to Chicago on Thursday and outlined the start of a new chapter in the social network’s life.
Before describing his plan during a West Loop conference for a few hundred invited Facebook devotees, Zuckerberg disarmingly addressed the crowd with a couple of personal asides.
“Before we get started, I want to introduce myself. I’m Mark,” he said, prompting a chorus of chuckles and cheers from the attendees, who seemed to get a kick out of the tech billionaire’s smiling self-effacement.
That warm reception continued as Zuckerberg’s keynote speech went on to include big-screen Facebook photos of his young daughter, the family’s pet puli dog and his dad, who is recovering from heart surgery.
Having attended my share of CEO presentations, I can attest that Zuckerberg’s speaking style is unexpectedly open and welcoming. A young man of medium height and build, Zuckerberg comes across as conversational and extemporaneous — traits that are too rarely found among other senior-level corporate executives.
Of course, it would have been fun to see if he was the same during the give-and-take of a news conference. But Zuckerberg’s handlers kept him at arm’s length from the media, stressing that the CEO would not be taking reporters’ questions.
That’s too bad, because the flip side to Zuckerberg’s warm and fuzzy comments is a new, hard-nosed business strategy that deserves examination.
At the event, his narrative was about building communities and expanding Facebook’s basic user experience and approach.
In the next decade, the network will strive to build an untold number of virtual Facebook “communities” that rally groups of people locally and globally. Already there are ones that include new mothers, disabled veterans and even locksmiths.
There are many more to come.
Although Facebook community members may not know each other personally, they’ll increasingly opt to gather around a common interest, belief or problem that needs to be solved, Zuckerberg contends.
“In the next generation, our greatest opportunities and challenges we can only take on together — ending poverty, curing disease, stopping climate change, . . . stopping terrorism, ” Zuckerberg said.
To expedite this process, Facebook is providing a new virtual “toolbox” to help leaders of current and new “communities” manage posts, accept new members and get rid of people who are disruptive to a community site.
From there it gets a little fuzzy.
Still to be determined is the related business course of action for Facebook, which became a publicly traded company nearly five years ago and has a market capitalization of $446 billion.
Facebook declined to discuss with me the business side of the new community mission, opening the way for outside speculation.
From a public relations standpoint, this new approach may help Facebook beat back criticism of not acting quickly or decisively enough during the last election cycle to curb fake news or extremist posts.
It could also help Facebook tee up some new advertising opportunities. The formation of these highly targeted groups could prove attractive to major advertisers looking to connect with the likes of working parents, sports fans or folks coping with certain medical conditions or habits.
“This strategy could help advertisers target the consumers possibly more accurately, which could increase ad revenues,” Ali Mogharabi, equity analyst at Morningstar, wrote to me in an email after the Facebook event.
There’s also industry talk of Facebook being interested in backing some long-form programming, similar to the shows being produced by Amazon and Netflix.
Perhaps these communities can help advance that programming approach?
This year, Zuckerberg has been traveling the country — notably the Midwest — seeking out the counsel of community, business and political leaders.
I surmise it’s a fact-finding tour away from the inevitable insulation of Facebook’s headquarters campus in Silicon Valley.
Where will all this travel ultimately take Facebook? That’s not clear yet.
Still, this week’s visit to Chicago shows the casually dressed but hard-charging Zuckerberg is definitely a man on the go.