As we scream towards the Facebook IPO, I want all of you to consider something. What I’m asking you to consider may very well alter your foundational values regarding business, design, experience, or quite possibly your take on this fragile reality we populate. As Facebook looks to gain an almost instantaneous $100 billion dollar valuation, please consider this one thing. This one thing essential to your understanding of the nature of commerce in the digital age. This one thing that will be curiously absent from the national discourse. This one thing that, at the visceral level, should frighten you to your very core. This one thing is as follows: Facebook managed to become a $100 billion dollar company by being that thing that 40% of its customers engage with while on the toilet.
Chew on that for a while: $100 billion dollars. Toilet.
Now, in many ways this is nothing new. Since the temporal alignment of toilets and reading material, there has been no shortage of combinations of the two. So what is there to be learned? That’s tricky. We could dissect the nature of mobile engagement and its potential impacts on the larger field of ubiquitous computing. We could opine on the essence of experiential design and the need to capture the appropriate context for users and support their goals, regardless of how bizarre or seemingly gross their intentions may be. We could do all of these things. But instead, we’ll talk about effluence.
Effluence dominates the culture of the day. Every day we are inundated by products devoid of unique meaning or value. These products pour from the bowels of predecessors, competitors, and shiny new trend-makers. Facebook has been one of the most fast-followed and influential of all web properties. This is undeniable. The reach, scope, and scale of the enterprise can not be understated. Neither can the pile of effluence it has left behind. “Social media is all the rage, we’ve got to tap into this!” is the parlance of the time, and with it comes the inevitable clamoring to mimic business cases, experiences, and reach. This posturing to capture a portion of the success of Facebook has been completely off-focus since it hit the mainstream 5 years ago. Executives scream for social integration – but not for a strategy to support it. Teams scramble to assemble a hodgepodge of popular social features to integrate into their experiences – without relevance, context, or any pseudo-reasonable reason to do so. Dollars are spent. Feelings are hurt.
Why? To recreate the success of some thing a large number of people do while on the toilet.
And of this was before the valuation. Lord help us…