Interview: Veteran Product Lead Josh Elman on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter — and Joining Greylock

Josh Elman has been in the trenches of product development since mid-1990s, with his resume reading like a who’s who of major web companies today. He started at Homestead and RealNetworks in the 1990s, and went on to hold key product roles at LinkedIn, Zazzle, Facebook and most recently Twitter.

But after 15 years building products, he recently became a principal at Silicon Valley venture firm Greylock Partners. We sat down with him recently to get his take on where Facebook and Twitter are going, and to learn more about his own plans now that he’s an investor.

Inside Facebook: If you were abandoned on an island for the rest of your life, would you rather be stuck with Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Williams or Jack Dorsey?

Josh Elman: Um, wow that’s a great question. I’d probably choose Ev. Ev, Zuck and Jack are great entrepreneurs, and I have massive respect for all three. But I’ve spent most of the most time with Ev and would love to spend more. Of the three, I feel closest and most stylistically connected to him. And I’d add Reid Hoffman to this list too — and should note that I’m happy to be working with him again.

IF: It’s 2011, and despite all the years of speculation about Facebook and Twitter killing each other, they are obviously coexisting now. But having worked at both companies, what do you predict for them (and other social platforms) in the future — let’s say in the next 5 years to keep that question somewhat focused?

JE: The way that I think about a lot of the opportunities in communication is: Where do we turn to as humans to find out what we care about in the world? In the past it was maybe newspapers, TV, radio. Now it’s mobile, iPads, computers, TV — we’re turning to all these different screens. But we really want an emotional connection to people we care about, to be more informed, and to be more able to react to conversations that are important and interesting around us.

There are three streams of important information. One of those, I think, is direct messages to me. That’s mostly email. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t do this (though I’m sure there are some) — the question of whether Facebook and Twitter can do to replace it gets asked a lot less now.

The second stream is what is happening with the people I love and care about. It’s obvious that Facebook has become that for everybody. When you want to know what’s going on with a friend, you have these incredible emotional moments on Facebook. You see them change jobs, celebrate their kids, share funny or important links.

The third stream is the world: What should I know about and care about? Everyone wants to know what’s happening. I think that Twitter is really redefining what that experience means. For example, recently there was an earthquake, and a lot of folks turned to Twitter to both share what happened and to verify what happened.

And for a lot of folks, there is a fourth stream — your work/professional stream. There are a lot of companies working on different facets of this between LinkedIn for your professional life, Google Apps, Salesforce, Asana, and more for your productivity. And email is still a huge component here.

IF: Right, that’s today, but all these companies are in some ways getting into each other’s turf.

JE: Think about it this way. If your favorite Italian restaurant hires a Japanese chef, who then starts doing Japanese noodles, you still wouldn’t go there for Japanese noodles unless it was the best Japanese noodles ever. You’d still want to go to an Italian restaurant for Italian food, or go to a Japanese restaurant for the noodles.

The specialized graphs of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn make them each incredibly long-term defensible businesses.

Twitter is so focused on staying simple, real-time — like Mac is so much simpler than Windows. Facebook, while some people say it’s too complex, has grown to more than 800 million people worldwide. It’s clearly not too complex.

Humans will go to whatever is best, most visceral.

Facebook’s frictionless sharing is a big opportunity to pivot from connecting people and more to connecting info. That’s going to be a change for the way that people use Facebook, and I’m not sure if that will ultimately happen. But it’s a great move in many respects — Spotify’s new integration means that I can see if Eric is listening to Bieber again, and jab him about it. When we launched Facebook Connect, we thought that Facebook wasn’t just going to be a social network site for communicating with your friends. It was that you were going to go to have all sorts of great experiences. On the phone, web, offline locations, wherever — it makes us more connected as people, and helps serendipity happen.

IF: What about Google+?

JE: I have huge respect for them. They’ve had a great launch and done something most people in the tech industry had doubts about — whether Google could launch a compelling social product.

But it’s still incredibly early to tell if it’s mainstream and able to tap into visceral elements like Facebook and Twitter. It’s enabling certain types of conversations between people — big conversations, real-time debates, it’s more similiar to what we’ve seen on indie blogs than Facebook or Twitter.

IF: It feels more public than Facebook, but private enough that you know your audience….

JE: Yeah, and the interface naturally enables that. Facebook doesn’t always have great topical discussion.

It’ll be exciting to see how Google+ expands to other services.

IF: How do Facebook’s latest f8 launches change what developers should focus on?

JE: They introduced probably the most important change since at least 2008 when they did a big shift from profile boxes to make the news feed central. The idea of the ticker is transformative. Now frictionless sharing creates way to share everything, naturally broadcasted without being too heavy or too spammy or too awkward. In the past, it’d be annoying. Now it lets you find out what your friends are doing at a much bigger scale — great insight into lots of friends.

You can start to build really compelling discovery, like with Spotify — seeing that ten of your friends listened to Bieber.

The launch creates new opportunities for every kind of vertical or business where people interact around certain thing would bring other friends in. Companies who take advantage of it first are going to get big benefits.

Overall, it’s better alignment between Facebook and developers — broadcasting what you actually do which gets more friends sharing , and even more discovery.

IF: How should developers be trying to harness the Twitter platform?

JE: Twitter’s platform has only gotten stronger because Twitter now has 100 million active users. Comscore shows much higher visits, not just users. So it creates even more opportunities to help people create, interact with, and consume more content through Twitter. Twitter has talked about curation, analytics, and a few other platform businesses.

But the thing about building for any platform is that the moment you start building for one, you need to remember you’re building your own company and business. If I were to go build this great new restaurant discovery app, I’d want to use Twitter to share more, as a source of content and amplifer. But I would be focused on restaurant discovery, not being “X for Twitter.” The same is exactly true for Facebook.

IF: How are you approaching this from the investing perspective?

JE: I’m brand-new to this side, and it’s quite a bit different than the operating side. A lot of what I’m doing is listening and helping teams that we’re meeting as well as in the portfolio in any way that I can. Through my career, I’ve always been super excited about creating networks of people that enable new forms of communication and connection. Whether that’s Linkedin or Zazzle (connecting designers and artwork with buyers), or Facebook or Twitter, I’ve always been compelled by helping the founders realize these huge visions and build and grow these networks and platforms.

A lot of people talk about specific spaces like “mobile” or “social” or “local”. In general, I think any new consumer experience is going to tie in key elements and work across all of those. It needs to be relevant when you check the service on your phone and relevant when you want to pull something up on your TV in the future.

At Greylock, we tend to look for two things — a great product that people will want to use in meaningful ways, and durable distribution that ensures the product gets in the hands of as many users as possible.

Mostly I’m looking for great teams of people with big visions and a deep understanding and excitement about the path it takes to build a long-lasting company.

[Photo via Greylock Partners]

Report: Facebook to Settle FTC Case by Making Privacy Changes Opt-In

Facebook is close to settling charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it deceived users about privacy changes, The Wall Street Journal reports. The settlement would “require Facebook to obtain ‘express affirmative consent’ when it makes ‘material retroactive changes’” to private user data. In other words, sharing-related privacy changes will now be up to users to opt into — Facebook won’t be able to force people to either make more data available, or have to “opt out” of using Facebook.

The specific issue is that Facebook changed its privacy policies in late 2009, forcing all users to make some information public that it had previously said would not be made public. Until that point, Facebook’s policy had said that “you choose what information you put in your profile, including contact and personal information, pictures, interests and groups you join. And you control the users with whom you share that information through the privacy settings on the Privacy page.”

That November, it announced that some of this information – profile name, profile picture, list of friends, current city, gender, networks, and Pages — would be made public as part of a privacy policy change. And it was, that December, causing an outcry among some users and privacy advocates, and getting the FTC’s attention.

While both the November policy change and December product update stated what the changes were, many users still didn’t comprehend what was going on — especially because Facebook had not previously told them to expect such changes. Further issues, like Facebook making all Liked Pages public in April of 2010, or more recently offering a face-targeting service, have added to the perception among some that Facebook is not prioritizing privacy.

The settlement, which Facebook isn’t commenting on right now, appears to create new limits around what Facebook might launch in the future. It would be precluded from doing anything like that December 2009 product change, for example. In addition, Facebook will be subject to independent privacy audits for the next 20 years, although it’s currently unclear who the auditors would be or how they would hold Facebook accountable.

Facebook’s side of this story is that it has needed to revisit out the right balance of public/private as its service has evolved, and as cultural expectations around privacy have changed. When the company first launched on college campuses, the whole point was to offer a private community. Today, some use the site for sharing content more publicly.

If the FTC had acted earlier, maybe it would have precluded Facebook from creating more value for users (a key risk that the company created for itself due to its decisions). For example, if some large portion of users had chosen not to make their profile photos and names public, Facebook’s social plugins would be able to show significantly less relevant social information to other users.

But at this point, Facebook appears to have gotten its main privacy changes completed, and we’re left wondering what the FTC will have left to enforce.

New “Listen” and “Read” Buttons Appear on Facebook’s Ticker

Some users are seeing an interface adjustment on Facebook’s Ticker that makes it easier to start consuming the media that you see your friends engaging with. News articles and songs in the Ticker now include buttons that allow you to start reading or listening when you click on them. First, a newspaper or music note icon appears to the right of the Ticker story, then the word “Read” or “Listen” text appears if you mouse over. Clicking on them takes you to the article or song.

The buttons create a simpler way for users to quickly respond. That further generates activity in the Ticker, and could help these types of media gain new viral growth.

The current interface — what the rest of us are seeing — only opens a window showing a set of information from the app that generated the activity story. Spotify, for example, shows a few other songs in addition to the one you’re listening to, as well as other information.

The Ticker, launched at f8, already highlights a variety of actions from your friends, including “listening” to songs and “reading” articles. The Open Graph actions, available for third-party apps, builds on the news feed by sharing what users do in the background, not what they explicitly decide to share. All that’s required is the user’s initial acceptance of the app’s permissions requests.

Instant Message, Music Services Are Now Among the Most Engaging Facebook Apps

When it first launched its developer platform back in 2007, Facebook had meant every company in the world to somehow use it. Instead, most of the hits have turned out to be social games and lightweight quiz and dating apps.

But the original vision is still alive and growing, mostly in the form of established web services — from Microsoft and Yahoo to Scribd and Yelp — plugging in some type of Facebook integration as a social layer on top of whatever they already offer.

Here’s our latest look at the largest apps of this type, based on AppData, our tracking service for Facebook apps, and following up on an article we did a couple months ago on the trend. For the most part, we’ll look at apps based on daily active users in order to illustrate just how engaging they are to Facebook users.

By the DAU measure, the largest app on the platform now is Windows Live Messenger. It has been reaching nearly 18 million people a day for the past few weeks, after seeing a slight drop that may have been due to recent methodology changes by Facebook to the data that we track.

The overall trend is that Messenger has been steadily gaining Facebook users since the integration launched in 2010, and we expect that to continue given that Messenger has hundreds of millions of total users. However, Microsoft will need to see if Facebook ends up helping its massive, aging instant message service grow (or at least maintain users), and make money.

The third-largest app on the Facebook platform is Yahoo’s integration of Facebook into its homepage (Zynga’s CityVille game is at second). The homepage has been fluctuating between 11.3 million and 12.5 million DAUs in the past few weeks, in what could be a reflection of Yahoo’s overall traffic patterns. As the social layer on Yahoo’s content and services portal, Facebook helps users see things like articles that friends like, thereby helping engagement — and Yahoo’s ad business.

Bing, with 4.2 million daily active users, gets an especially obvious win from Facebook. First of all, Facebook has provided its strategic investor with special access to user data for social search results, and also features Bing as the web search results page within Facebook.com. The result is that users who want a social experience can’t get the equivalent social results — such as your Facebook friend Liking an article on the topic you searched for — from market leader Google. That differentiation in turn can help Bing increase engagement, and search-related revenue streams like ads. The result is the steady weekly patterns of engagement that you can see in the graph above, that make Bing the app with the 12th-highest number of DAUs on Facebook.

Streaming music startup Spotify‘s special business relationship with Facebook landed it a dominant spot in the launch of a new Facebook profile at Facebook’s f8 conference in September. Millions of users Facebook suddenly started seeing every single song that their Spotify-using friends were listening to through the service, and the result has been some viral growth. Over October, the app has been surging up in DAU, and for some reason shot up yesterday from less than 2 million DAU to nearly 4 million. Clearly this is an app to keep watching.

European instant message service eBuddy hasn’t gotten a lot of press out of its Facebook integration, but it has gotten results: 2.5 million daily active users, and growing, and the 21st spot on our top 50 DAU list. Like Messenger, eBuddy makes it easy to sync and chat with Facebook friends through its service.

Not to be outdone, new Microsoft property Skype has been climbing up the charts especially fast. It has grown by half a million DAU in the past month, to reach around 2 million today. The Skype-Facebook tie-up has been coming for some time, and the results so far are not surprising when you consider how well some of the other chat services have done with integrating Facebook.

 

It might not have been included in Facebook’s Spotify-focused music launch, but internet radio service Pandora has been adding more and more daily active users on Facebook. Today it is near 1.4 million at the peak of the traffic waves you see above, following a good couple of months.

YouTube‘s dominant position in online video has translated to Facebook a little bit, with some 1.5 million DAU these days.

Twitter has also seen more and more Facebook usage — presumably through some of the Facebook-Twitter integrations that Facebook has not blocked in past years.

Inside Network Is Hiring Writers to Cover Facebook and Mobile Apps — Apply Now

Inside Network has continued to grow with the industries it covers. Now we need more writers to build out our coverage of Facebook and mobile apps.

Inside Facebook

We’re looking for part-time or full-time writers who want to follow and analyze Facebook’s latest product and business changes.

Product/Marketing Writer: Focusing on Facebook features like the news feed and profiles, Pages and Page marketing applications, the Ads API and the companies using it, other day-to-day news related to the company, that fits within Inside Facebook’s focus. Previous experience in journalism, at technology startups, or in marketing recommended.

Business/Finance Writer: Focusing on Facebook’s role in the advertising industry, corporate financial developments, and legal/public policy issues. Previous experience in finance, business or technology journalism recommended.

Inside Mobile Apps

Having launched at the beginning of the year, the site has established a strong readership among top iOS and Android game developers. We’re looking to hire a part-time writer now who can help us further cover developer news.

Developer Writer: Focus areas include developer-related platform updates from Apple, Google, Facebook and other companies that offer mobile platforms, as well as the latest developments among monetization and growth service providers. Familiarity with mobile products and development recommended.

If you are interested in any of the above positions, email me with a one-page resume, a short cover letter, and three clips from published articles (if you have them). My email address is eric (at) insidenetwork (dot) com.

Facebook Launches a Recommendations Bar to Keep Users Reading on Sites

Building off the now-common Like button that it launched last year, Facebook is introducing a new social plugin today called the Recommendations Bar. It’s designed to deliver additional recommended articles to readers right as they finish each article.

While Facebook’s recommendations box plugin has already driven this behavior, there has not been a slick interface to help readers move to a new recommended story once they finish the first recommended one. In most implementations to date, the user has to click back to find more stories in the recommendations box.

The new plugin, at least as it was presented at f8 (it’s not live), resides at the lower right corner of each browser window of a page that has the plugin installed. It floats down as users scroll, basically like how other toolbars work. When a user first loads a page — say, an article on CNN — the bar is collapsed and only shows the option to Like the page. But as the user spends more time reading the article and scrolling down, the plugin will expand and show additional articles to read on the site based on the criteria below.

The expanded view also shows an “Add to Timeline” button. If the user clicks on it, the story will be shared back to Facebook and placed within the (new) Timeline profile. Although it might not be obvious to the user at the time, they are also enabling the plugin to share a “read” action back to Facebook every time in the future that the plugin is activated on that particular site.

That seems like it could upset users who don’t realize or remember enabling auto-sharing. But they can either turn off the feature by clicking again on the “Add to Timeline” button on the bar, or by adjusting their privacy settings on their home site, Faceboook product manager Austin Haugen said during a presentation at f8 on the feature.

As the Facebook documentation outlines below, developers have the following options for defining exactly when the plugin bar will expand:

  • onvisible - the plugin is expanded when a user scrolls past the exact point where the <fb:recommendations-bar /> tag is placed on the page. This is the simplest option and will work best if you place the tag right at the end of your article’s main content. This is the default.
  • X% - where X is any positive integer less than or equal to 100. This specifies the percent of the page the user must scroll down before the plugin is expanded. For example: 100% would indicate that a user needs to scroll all the way to the end of the page before the plugin expands. 50% would be to the mid point of the page.
  • manual - use this option to manually trigger the read action. When you want to trigger the action callFB.XFBML.RecommendationsBar.markRead(href); in JavaScript. The href parameter is optional and will default to the current page if not set. If provided, it must match the href parameter on the XFBML tag. The manual trigger is useful when you have more a multi-page article. For example on a three page article, you would addtrigger="manual" on pages one and two and never call the ‘markRead’ JavaScript function on those pages.

In addition, a read_time parameter will tell the plugin to wait a customizable number of seconds before it expands. It’s set to 30 seconds by default.

Facebook will then take all “read” stories data and figure out how to display them in users’ Timelines and in their friends’ news feeds.

Overall, the bar should help each user find more interesting stories from their friends while reading news stories on a site. For example, a user might get to the end of an article about government budget issues, and see a recommendation from a friend about a related opinion piece on the topic. The result is that the user stays on the site longer than they otherwise might, finding more useful information while bringing the site more engagement. The plugin also could generate additional traffic through the sharing back to Facebook. However, the opt-in-once aspect of the feature might surprise some users — there could be privacy issues around this, just like there was with the now-shuttered Beacon years ago.

Live Blog: Facebook’s f8 Developer Conference 2011 Keynote

The Inside Network team is here at Facebook’s f8 developer conference in San Francisco. We’ll be providing live coverage of all the news over the course of the day, starting with a live blog of the opening keynotes below. You can also watch the live feed of the show here.

Among the many rumored launches are a music and media platform service, a new profile, more sophisticated developer access to news feeds, and a new set of buttons that indicate certain actions.

10:16 Andy Samberg has taken the stage posing as Mark Zuckerberg, cracking lots of jokes — including a graph that shows “800+ million users” worldwide, and a graph that shows engagement trends growing. He’s also announcing a new section of the profile for “I’m not really friends with these people.”

10:21 The real Mark Zuckerberg has taken the stage. They’re making more jokes.

It’s great to be hear today. Here are two of the most exciting things we’ve been working on.

The last 5 years of social networking have been getting people signed up and connected. Until recently, a lot of people weren’t sure how big it was going to be, how long it would last.

Now we can see that it’s everyone working.

For the first time ever last week, we had half a billion people use Facebook in a single day.

More and more people continue to sign up and use the service.

The next era, the next 5 years, will be about apps and depths of engagement now that everyone has their connections in place.

It’s an exciting time to be part of building these new apps that are possible.

10:26 I want to start out talking about the profile. People feel an intense ownership over the profile. Everything about you. Millions of people have invested a ton of time on them. Our job is to make them the best way to share and express who you are.

How this works has changed a bunch over the years.

The 2004 profile was basic, just showed info like where you’re from. But people loved it. Showed valuable information.

Then we started adding things like photos, groups and apps. If the first 5 minutes is basic, an introcution, then the next 15 is about what your’e doing.

By 2008 we introduced a new profile. It had changed to all things you’d shared and done recently. Allowed you to have the next 15 minutes.

But we’re more than what we did recently. Most get into all parts of your life. Just clicking “more” on the wall was hard to do.

All the stories you’d shared over time fall off the cliff at the bottom of the wall. Millions of people have spent years curating the stories of their lives and there hasn’t been a way to share that.

We think we’ve solved that. Showing all the unique things of your life…. beautiful.

What I want to show you today is the rest, beyond 15. The next few hours of a great, in-depth engaging conversation, whether with a close friend or someone you just met.

The heart of your Facebook experience, completely thought up.

10:30 Launching Timeline

The story of your life.

So lets take a look.

The first thing is that it’s a lot more visual. Down at the bottom, all your stories. A nice visual… bottom section is visual. The right is years to get to any point in your life. In the middle are visual tiles to see apps and other stuff you’ve done. On top of is the cover photo.

All your stories, all your apps, a new way to express who you are.

Then you can scroll past and see tiles that keep going all the way to the bottom.

Here’s what it looks on a mobile device. Smaller view of the scroll.

Biggest challenge was telling whole stories on a single page. But don’t want to show every single thing.

Starts off with recent, as you go further back it starts summarizing. Further back you summarize more.

Last month a little less, etc.

You can see the timeline running down the middle here. Blue dots are highlighted, gray dots are for less important.

See something that’s hidden, hover over. But all right here. See everything in 2007, click on the link and it’s all there.

It’s so simple.

10:35 Exactly how you want to browse through time, and discover what people have done through their whole lives.

But how to add? Say I want to add a photo from my childhood. Pop up composer, post.

Creating completely new type of timeline for life event. Getting a dog — add Beast’s info and it’s there.

This is the main timeline.

What do you do if you want to see content filter down. Here’s the photos timeline view. Here’s some people working at Facebook.

People visiting. Much nicer than anything we have today.

You can see all sorts of trips, where you were. Go all the way back to where you were born. All about apps, tell the story of your life on your timeline.

Perhaps the most common thing people had used was to add boxes of things to their profiles. A lot of people had 50 or 60 or even 100 boxes. Add to the bottom of profile, quickly became unwieldy. We learned that people really want to use apps to express themselves.

Even though they couldn’t all fit into the old profile design, we took those lessons and now apps can be used to express on the timeline.

The way is that they’ll rely on apps to help them out.

What kinds of content can go on the timeline? You can start sharing like before. Here’s an example: post about cooking bison burger. No activity is too big or too small to share.

You can add a box right at the top.

This is a report of everything that I’ve cooked in September — summary is more interesting than every single thing. Apps can help roll up every activity. Get a nice summary, really interesting. We think people are really going to like these.

Take me to a timeline view. All the way back in time.

10:40

If the app has history, you can see everything in there.

Here’s Bret’s timeline. Using a running app. Pretty cool. Nice pop-up.

That’s how apps can help you tell the story. I’ll get into more detail about building these apps in a bit.

In your timeline, not just a place for adding stories and apps. Where you tell your story online is very personal.

Gives ability to highlight and curate stories so you can express who you really are. Cover photo. Nice big photo right at the top. Still have a profile pic. So cover can be something else. Great way to learn about someone without having to read anything at all.

You can change the cover as often as you like. Really easy: hover, pick photo, switch. Some people in testing are doing every day.

Vacation photo — how to highlight in timeline? Hover over any story in the timeline.

Calls up all the important stuff. Switch to blue dot from gray.

Shows sample profiles for travel-lover, musician. Showed most on web. But all works beautifully on mobile devices. Works beautifully. See all the photos.

10:48 This means a new kind of app.

Last year we introduced the concept of the open graph. A map of all of the connections in the world. You could add anything. Connect to it by liking it. Connect to order of magnitude versus before. This year we’re taking it to the next step: you can connect to anything, anywhere.

Not just “Like” but “Read” a book. “Watch” a movie. “Eat” a meal. “Hike” a trail. “Listen” to music. Language for anything you want.

Every year we make some new social apps possible, express themselves in new ways.

People have things they want to share, but don’t want to annoy their friends. If the problem is that, then Ticker.

Lightweight stream of everything going on around you. Something might catch your attention out of the corner of your eye, but not annoy your friends. Share post goes into news feed, but activity goes to Ticker and Timeline but not news feed unless there’s a particularly interesting pattern that you want your friends to see.

Until today, no socially acceptable way to express lightweight activity.

Next version of Open Graph. Connect to anything you want. Define action and publish. This will make it possible to build a completely new class of social apps. What kind? A lot. We believe almost all will be social. But in real world there’s a spectrum.

Naturally social — turn into social apps first.

10:55 Communication, games. Other side of spectrum are health care and finance that I don’t think there’ll be social apps for a long time.

Expand to new stuff: media. Music, movies, TV, news, books. Really great open graph apps.

Next is “lifestyle” apps: helping you keep track and express everything about your lifes. Bike rides, cooking, apps.

New class of apps, rethink a lot of industries.

Open graph, enable apps that do two types of things: fill out timeline and discover new things through friends.

Frictionless Experiences

Sharing super mario app that let’s you share activity. In the middle of some app that makes you share.

If you’re using new open graph apps. Add activity without prompts. Still publish to stream, but if your goal is to just share lightweight activity — connecting timeline together.

To make this work, we completely redesigned permissions.

App says what kind of activity it will publish. Now Spotify won’t have to prompt me every time I do something. How is this going to help you discover new things through friends.

Turns out they’re already doing a lot of things around you.

Real-Time Serendipity:

Tick right in. Friends hover over, can see what to listen to. Now listening to song with a friend. Music is synched up with friends.

News feed can show patterns of friends. Seem flow of music from friends.

11:00 Finding Patterns and Activity

Sometimes you discover new songs from friends across platforms. See any music player. Any patterns. Discover really neat new things.

Shows shared music listening.

Can see notifications from friends who share.

Next wave is music companies trying to help you discover new songs, not blocking existing ones.

Devs are using Open Graph. But rethink music industry.

11:05 Daniel Ek from Spotify is on stage.

Big day for everyone who loves music. First time that I used in Facebook in Sweden back in the day. Like serendipity.

Music is important part of my life. People discovered through friends.

A bit over ten years ago, big change: Napster. Didn’t work for music industry. So we worked a music that fairly compensates artists. And lets you see what your friends are listening to.

With social, spotify has: more music, more variety, twice as likely to pay.

Huge list of new music partners.

TVs and Movies

Really similar to music. See friends who are watching Glee on Hulu in news feed. Hover over, click, new social canvas app shows. Everyone who uses it will be FB user, will have social experience. Further down page, four friends have recently watched movies with Johnny Depp in them on Netflix.

Can click through and watch a Depp movie.

Here is a friend’s timeline. Carl’s video timeline. Can see all the things he’s watched.

Not just watching with your friends.

11:10 Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO and Facebook board member, is on stage.

Netflix algorithm shows lots of friends watching Breaking Bad. Shows lots of info, but social also helps.

Facebook-Netflix integration is live in 44 countries, but not in US due to outdated privacy law — but Congress is working on that.

11:15 News

Social news app with Open Graph to discover what your friends are reading first. Really interesting patterns that are possible to show. Here are all of the most popular articles. Yahoo News article on astronaughts — will use open graph to discover more news stories through friends. Back to the feed, I can also see that 30 friends are reading about f8. Can see all the articles.

See one from Washington Post. See news in real-time as it’s breaking in the Ticker. More than a dozen devs worked with us to build news apps. Rethink a lot of the way that the industry works.

Social games are killing it.

Games are biggest on platform — will get bigger.

Now with open graph, nice clear dialogue up front. Will see real things that they’re doing. Not just “this person is playing a game” — Mike playing Words With Friends with Carl. Can see game board and word on it. Possible because every piece of content in open graph has picture associated with it. Zynga’s Words With Friends.

Social games, using open graph.

11:20

Lifestyle apps. Running, cooking. Covers what he’d mentioned at the start.

New class of social apps. Things with friends.

11:25 Bret Taylor, Facebook CTO, on stage.

Detail on how to build these apps. How your apps fit into new vision.

Open graph apps are about more than sharing. Self-expression, serendipity. As great side effect of normal behavior. Lightweight way that goes beyond shared dialogue.

Open Graph goals

- Simple user experience
- Simple developer experience
- Engaging apps

Adding app to timeline is one-click experience.

No step two — just add and start listening.

11:30 Social by design

- Model your app’s social actions
- Design your timeline integration
- Add to timeline

Model Your App’s Social Actions

Big question is how it fits in. Expanding social graph to all social actions. Listening, watching, reading, etc.

That’s what it means to be part of social graph. What activity do I want to see?

See songs I’m listening to, and stations I’m plahing. Also creating a few custom radio stations. Imagine creating list and sticking next to graduation photo. Now every time I listen to song in iHeartRadio, using data structure, tapping into all experiences that Mark showed earlier.

By using same underlying structure as what f8 uses. That cooking app. All recipes I’ve added, recipes that friends have bookmarked.

Design Your Timeline Integration

List of music that user listens to. Or list of artists most often played. Aggregations — query of trends.

All sorts of other info — 6 layout styles, flexible query engine. I can pick and choose which of these stories I want to show my friends. Really one simple step next.

But a timeline button in your app. Work on every device conceivable — all web and mobile apps.

Moment you get access to dev beta, you can start adding all these platforms.

Engaging Apps

How to build them right? We’ve heard over and over that it’s just too hard right now. Shouldn’t need PhD in engineering and psychology to do it. Not tricks and gimmicks either.

The more engaging, the more people will discover. Ambitious considering where we are today.

Graph Rank — AI system that manages discovery of all open graph. What is most interesting to me? What is right to see?

Different for colleagues.

11:40 Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook, on stage.

Data as narrative. Story of wikipedia growth on one Page. Infographic are part of way that news is expressed. For any data-rich topic, can find one-page topic.

Not just topics. Nothing we love to summarize more. News publications do it all at the end of December.

Scrapbooking before ended up on bookshelves. But combine with information design.

Nicholas Felton data and business partner Brian Case developed new version for us. Hired Sam Lessin as well.

Accidentally tested Memories view for an hour this spring — lots of people loved it. What is the modern vehicle for scrapbooking?

Goes over how to use the new scrapbooking feature.

11:55 Zuckerberg back on stage

Timeline: beta starts now.

Developers will get access now, everyone else will sign up and it’ll get rolled out widely in the next few weeks.

At f8, Facebook Developers Could Get a Smarter Way to Structure Their News Feed Stories

While Facebook product launches tend to get the most speculation before the f8 developer conference  – there are 750 million users who care, after all — the company has often used the event to push grand presentations that instead target developers.

That trend may be the case again next Thursday, we’re hearing from a trusted source with some knowledge of what the company has planned.

Developers might be getting new access to Facebook’s news feed, building off of the graph API that Facebook presented at last year’s f8. They’d be able to provide new structure to the information they share into the news feed, allowing Facebook’s news feed algorithm to present it to the audience most likely to find it relevant and engage with it.

Update: Facebook spokesman Jonny Thaw has also confirmed with us that “Yes, there will be platform integration” for Smart Lists. This includes the ability for developers that have been granted access to a user’s Friend Lists to publish content specifically to members of Smart Lists.

The goal is to help developers focus on sharing what’s right for users (not just their own traffic and revenue numbers), while giving the users themselves a more subtle and serendipitous experience.

With a more structured input of information, Facebook could then match content to users who’ve previously enjoyed similar content. It could also measure which developers are producing the most beloved content, based on factors like users resharing or hiding the story, and reward the developer with more visibility for their stories. That would create a more virtuous cycle where high-quality developers become more prominent, inspiring more user engagement that benefits both developers and Facebook, the company no doubt hopes.

Structured Content for Enhanced Relevancy

To understand what the changes mean, one example might be the well-understood problem of social game spam. Say a user achieves a new high score in Scrabble, an event that’s exceptional enough that they want all of their friends to know about, not just their Scrabble-playing companions. A developer could structure the story about the high score to signal to Facebook that it is of more general interest to all of a user’s friends, or maybe just the larger subgroup of friends who have played some social games on Facebook, but have not installed Scrabble.

In another situation, a local business discovery app could structure the content shared by its users such that Facebook knows its more relevant to local users. The content would then appear more prominently in the news feed to those living in the same city as the user posting it.

This isn’t just about games and apps. The change would impact anyone sharing any information to Facebook, including all of the sites that have installed the Facebook Like button and other plugins since they launched at f8 last year, or integrated with Facebook Connect (in total, Facebook’s official stats say that more than 2.5 million sites have integrated it so far).

Developers can already ask users permission to access their Friend Lists, but since they’re unique to each user, it’s difficult to know what type of audience corresponds to what list. With platform integration for Smart Lists and special lists, which Facebook confirms with us will be available in a few days, developers will be able to ask permission to target updates published by users through their apps to local friends, classmates, coworkers, family, Close friends, and Acquaintances.

Currently, the Graph API allows developers to provide a variety of more straightforward meta data about the content they publish, like the title of the info they’re sharing, a blurb, etc. But Facebook has used other signals in its news feed algorithm to figure out what to share and with whom, such as who a user’s closest friends are based on photo tags and who’s Liked a user’s previous posts.

The Context Is Right for This Launch

In the past, Facebook has taken blunter measures to fight spam, with methods such as clumping all stories from specific applications into a single thread, and hiding most stories about social games from friends who have not installed the app.

It has also taken a still-changing approach to how users make the news feed work for them. It has constantly iterated on the news feed algorithm since bringing it back a few years ago, and tested features that ask users how often they want to discover new games, or what types of content they prefer to see in the feed.

Just today, it officially launched a variety of Smart Lists and special lists – automatically created and populated lists of a user’s local friends, coworkers, and those that share other characteristics, and lists of best friends and distant contacts whose members appear more or less in the standard view of a user’s news feed. It’s probably not a coincidence that this particular launch is coming now. Users can apply the Friends Lists as news feed filters, but Facebook could allow developers target some stories to these lists as well. For example, the Scrabble high-score story could be formatted to be shared with the “Acquaintances” list, while less monumental stories would be formatted to just appear for “close friends.” That example is, to be clear, just a guess based on what our source has said.

Thinking more long-term, Facebook has steadily laid the foundation for this move over the years. The first f8, in 2007, was where the app platform was unveiled. Facebook Connect came in 2008, which started Facebook’s reach outside of the site by helping people to log in using their Facebook identities. The Graph API came at its next conference, last year. In addition to the consumer-facing social plugins and instant personalization, the company created the Open Graph protocol system for assigning web pages meta data that improves the format of news feed stories shared from them. The plugins utilizing this meta data pushed Facebook across the web. All that effort on the part of Facebook and its growing ecosystem now makes this change a natural progression.

In this context, the other big and interesting things that Facebook is rumored to be launching — a music platform that might include a scrobbling tool, a mobile web development platform, an iPad app — are more pieces of the puzzle that Facebook has been putting together. That is, making anything, from a catchy song to a popular mobile game, get the exposure it deserves to the users who want it.

The move would also aid Facebook against long-time competitor for owning and distributing the world’s information: Google. The launch of better methods for sharing quality information into Facebook could help it improve its news feed and box out Google, which is trying to move its new social alternative Google+ to the mainstream. Last year was about Facebook pushing itself out to the world via plugins, this year could be about pulling more of the world into Facebook.

Want to join us for some casual drinks, rumor and speculation the night before f8, come to the Inside Network happy hour next Wednesday at Mercury Lounge in SF. RSVP here to get a free drink on us.

Josh Constine co-authored this article.

Report: Facebook Nears $500M Net Income on $1.6B Revenue in First Half of 2011, Mostly Tracking Projections

Facebook appeared to be on course to make $4 billion in revenue for 2011, we and other publications heard from sources close to the company in January, with net income at around $1 billion. Reuters has an update on that estimate today, citing a source that says Facebook actually made $1.6 billion in the first half of the year, with net income near $500 million so far.

Looking at the past and present numbers together, revenue is lower than projected at this point, but net income is on track. That in turn suggests that costs have come in lower than expected.

Facebook doesn’t currently provide information on its finances, so we don’t know for sure what has caused its business to grow. But financial documents leaked in January during Goldman Sach’s fundraising efforts indicated that Facebook had made roughly $2 billion in 2010, with profits up to $600 million. That was more than double 2009.

Two additional trends have started to kick in, that could cause revenue to grow more sharply in this second half of the year, and continue the annual doubling trend.

One is that Facebook has finalized Credits as the only paid currency for third-party canvas apps on its platform. While Zynga and other top social game developers began transitioning as early as a year ago, the policy only went fully into effect on July 1st. From that point, we can say for certain that Facebook is getting 30% of revenue from basically all virtual goods transactions in apps.

The other trend is what’s been happening in Facebook’s marketer ecosystem. The Ads API, a way for larger advertisers to buy big, automated, fine-tuned ad campaigns through third-party tools, has launched publicly after spending years in private beta testing. The result is that companies who have figured out how to get a good return on investment from ad campaigns can now spend in bulk, like they do with online ad leader Google through Adsense and Adwords. In the meantime, Facebook has been busy building up its own sales teams around the world, and introducing a variety of new products and advertiser services to make spending easy and worthwhile.

While revenue is an increasingly important indicator for the company as it matures, it still has lots of growing left to do. It has opted against short-term revenue boosters like homepage takeover ads, in contrast to distant competitors like MySpace. Overall, it just needs to show some sort of serious revenue growth every year in order to get investors excited about its long-term future. If and when an offering happens, public investors will be hoping the company repeats the post-IPO success of many other companies over the years, and ultimately more than justify the $70 billion and $80 billion valuations that the private-market stock has been trading at.

Facebook Names Political and Business Leader Erskine Bowles to Board of Directors

Whether it’s gearing up for an IPO in the next year or two, or just trying to strengthen its ties to other power centers in the United States, Facebook has named Erskine Bowles to its board of directors.

Bowles might not be a familiar face in Silicon Valley, but he is on the Eastern seaboard due to a career that spans investment banking, politics and a stint in higher education.

From a leading political family in North Carolina, he started began his career at Morgan Stanley before cofounding an investment bank, holding key positions in the Clinton administration, founding another investment bank, running for senate a couple times, and holding top positions in the University of North Carolina education system. He recently co-chaired Obama’s debt panel, which produced a politically difficult but intellectually sensible national debt reduction plan that has yet to be acted upon. He’s currently on the board of Morgan Stanley, Cousins Properties Inc., Norfolk Southern Corp. and Belk Inc.

“Erskine has held important roles in government, academia and business which have given him insight into how to build organizations and navigate complex issues,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a press release. “Along with his experience founding companies, this will be very valuable as we continue building new things to help make the world more open and connected.”

He’s the sort of serious figure that Facebook wants to be associated with as it looks to convince the world of its seriousness as a company.

As a consequence of its success, and particularly its plan to make its financial information public next year (possibly ahead of an IPO), Facebook has attracted new scrutiny from the government. Various congresspeople have spoken out against Facebook over privacy and security issues, the Securities and Exchange Commission has looked into its secondary market transactions, the Federal Trade Commission has examined how Facebook collects and applies user data in its products and revenue models. The company has already been building out its public policy team to help convince the political world of its positions.

Meanwhile, Bowles’ legitimacy within the finance community and corporate America can help bolster Facebook’s image as a leading company in the nation, and possibly encourage more investors to take a closer look at Facebook stock if it decides to go public.

Facebook also recently added Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings to the board. Long-time members also include Marc Andreessen, Jim Breyer, Don Graham and Peter Thiel, with David Sze and Paul Madera on as observers. Founder Mark Zuckerberg continues to own a majority of the company and as a result has decision-making power over the other directors.

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