Beating Google Buzz, 10 Tips for Facebook

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Google Buzz ruined Facebook's sixth birthday this week. Now the question has become "How to save Facebook" from Google's Buzz-bomb. Here are some ideas.

Industry gadfly Jason Calacanis wonders whether Facebook has any future. After the Buzz introduction, the CEO sent an email saying Facebook had lost half its value, predicting its traffic would plummet, and that its IPO might now be in jeopardy.

That seems extreme, but Google's challenge to Facebook, has taken on a life of its own.

I am not so pessimistic and will, instead of handwringing, offer a 10 step program that will get Facebook more on track, better able to keep its customers happy, and make it a harder target for Google.

1. Integrate with e-mail. The magic of Google Buzz, such as it is, relates to using Gmail as its client and the user's Google contact list to build a list of friends. How hard can this really be? If customers want to see Facebook appear in their e-mail, this should be provided to them.

2. As an extension of #1, a free Facebook e-mail service might make sense.

3. Facebook needs adult supervision. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's 25-year-old founder, seems out of his depth. For such a large and important company, Facebook appears to spend a lot of time wandering. This lack of clear direction has created many of its ongoing privacy and customer relationship problems.

4. Improve the Microsoft relationship. Facebook needs to become Microsoft's default social network. Makes sense for Microsoft, makes sense for Facebook, better positions each to take on Google. Facebook such be Outlook-enabled, as part of #1.

5. Stop messing with the user interface. The sixth anniversary "simplified" Facebook interface made it more difficult to manage different groups of friends and slice-and-dice the newsfeed. It also made games more difficult to find (my wife tells me).

6. Related to #5, Facebook needs to give users the ability to customize the user interface, so it displays the information they want to see about the friends they care about most. I do not understand why Facebook hasn't figured out that the only way to make people happy is to give them more options, not make choices for them.

7. Build Enterprise Facebook, allowing corporations to create secure business social networks atop the Facebook platform, potentially integrating both personal and business friends. Properly done, it would integrate with corporate login information as well as Microsoft Outlook.

8. Related to #7, would anyone trust Facebook with their corporate data and secrets? Maybe Enterprise Facebook isn't such a good idea.

9. Develop a real business model. Yes, I've heard that Facebook can finance itself from ad sales, but I don't entirely believe it. And, Facebook should be a premium ad purchase, not a sleaze merchant.

10. Overarching all this is what seems to be a need for Google to find a bigger long-term partner. Whether Buzz is or is not a success, it seems forgone that Google will keep punching Facebook until it finds success or runs out of money. Can Facebook withstand this attack alone? Probably not.

There are my ideas. Some are better than others, but all worth serious consideration if Facebook is to fight off the Google challenge.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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