Facebook finally hits the mainstream

The social-networking site is being used by my barber, but how will it turn that into cash?

O'Reilly Radar's Ben Lorica writes that Facebook has been growing steadily on a global basis, and suggests through the data that Facebook adoption is deep and widespread. Most intriguingly, he finds that in North America working-age users is the fastest growing demographic, while the teen segment is growing much more slowly.

I could have saved him some time. Yesterday I got my haircut, and Valerie, the lady that has cut my hair for the past 20-plus years, started talking to me about how she uses Facebook. Valerie is one of the least technically-adept people I have ever met. If she's using Facebook, the entire planet is.

Take my mother, for instance. I wrote before that my mother has started IM'ing me through Facebook, which was a pretty good indicator of mainstream adoption of the social-networking service. Between Valerie and my angel mother, I have enough proof without reading a shred of statistical evidence that if I wanted to find my fourth-grade crush, I'd almost certainly find her on Facebook. (In fact, I did.).

The big question for Facebook now is how it will monetize that widespread adoption. I still find Facebook tedious and time-wasting. Things like its Facebook Connect service may make Facebook relevant to me without me having to "go to" Facebook.com, and is a step in the right direction.

But Facebook needs to figure out how to make "friends" on Facebook meaningful, both in commercial and other contexts . Once it has done so--once it has effectively mapped my social graph--it wlll have data that it can turn into dollars. At that point, Valerie and Mom will be able to enjoy Facebook while it enjoys dramatic revenue growth, which will be good for all involved.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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