Facebook's 10th birthday: Bottomless Nostalgia

One of my most cherished gifts to this day is a lovely montage that my wife put together when I had completed a decade in a TV channel. The snapshots captured some of my most unforgettable experiences – both on and off screen. The advantage of having lived through many of those incidents and the help from my colleague who secretly sourced material from the archives, served to complete the picture, as it were.

Imagine a stranger doing something similar. Not producing a montage but a short film of your activities over five or ten years. With all the right highlights – your highs and lows, feats and memories. Challenging enough? Now imagine doing this for two hundred million people! This was facebook’s gift to a large chunk of its users, half of whom, as revealed by its Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, shared it on their walls. I know of several users who gave the timeline notification a tolerant glance but stopped short of clicking the link fearing some sort of spam. Talking of spam, a post on how you can hack into your friend’s account has very nearly gone viral . I have a lurking suspicion that this could have made users skeptical about the facebook film link. Those who didn’t give it a miss and watched their personalised one minute videos, I’m sure would have been quite touched. I most definitely was. How thoughtful of facebook to have come up with this novel return gift on its tenth birthday. There was an option to edit the film but honestly, I chose to let it be for two reasons. Gifts, like ‘goods once sold’, are best not exchanged or altered! And, the film pretty much joined the dots of my presence on the site over the last seven years. The video bore the founder’s name at the end.

Those who haven’t been too active have been sent ‘Thank You’ Cards. In this day and age where, ironically perhaps, the social media has also contributed to round robin broadcast style wishes and acknowledgements, personalised greetings and especially videos for such a staggering number, deserves much more than a Like Button. The idea and its execution certainly had a touch of class. Never mind, if The Social Network, is, as a commentator succinctly put it, ‘still a Mark Zuckerberg Production.”

The sentiment apart, what’s the roadmap ahead for the site? The think tank seems poised for an ‘on your mark, get set, go’ command. Zuckerberg’s open letter to his 1.23 billion users, looks back at the decade gone by as “bootstrapping” of the network. What lies ahead are new challenges to push up user engagement and “solve complex problems”, through new apps and features that can take networking to the next level. Of course there have been and will always be new players chomping on its pie. But, as with any sector, the ‘first come’ advantage is not easy to take on, especially if you are not complacent but raring to experiment. Brand facebook is strong enough to weather many a storm but it’s also good to take stock. I’d like to see a periodic, official survey on actual time spent on the site, with a break up of quality engagement like timeline posts and sharing pictures as opposed to just Likes and invitations to play Diamond Dash or Candy Crush. A competitive twist may add to the excitement – like prizes for the best posts or wishes or pictures and videos under different categories, selected and awarded by facebook directly. Not goodie bags promised by individual users to those who like their posts. Because induced traction is no sign of popularity.