Added universal applications means higher latency for facebook

24 04 2008

For those of you that are logging onto facebook for the first time today may have noticed a chat application widget on the bottom of your screen acting as a secondary footer bar. For some of you, you may have seen it 2 weeks ago. For others, today was the first day you have the ability to stay on facebook and chat with your friends. I think there are some major issues with this application which is why I changed my facebook status to be rather “underwhelmed”. My major issues are outlined below:

  • Latency – By adding a whole new component that is insanely dynamic to the presentation layer of facebook, they increase latency, or the time it takes for components on the page to load. The key to facebook’s success, in my opinion, has been it’s ability to be extremely fast – at least faster than it’s competitors like friendster. I’m not 100% sure if it’s variable by friend sizes – i.e. the more friends you have the longer time it takes to load.
  • Filtering – Instant messaging, in my opinion, is a personal to personal interaction. I think the fundamental problem with chat on facebook is that I’m friends with many people I don’t want to chat with. There are numerous people on facebook that I meant once or twice that I would probably never IM, but I have no way of filtering them out. A feature should be added to place your most recent contacts to the top.
  • Invisibility – I know that being invisible is actually a very tough feature to build out. There is probably a reason why GTalk took over a year to build it. Building it within a browser is very difficult especially with high refresh rates. That being said, you have to launch a product that is up to standard – especially when you make something available to your entire network. If you don’t you’ll start getting complaints like Arrington on Techcrunch who, in my opinion, is simply being arrogant about people that IM him.

So what are the major advantages of adding chat on facebook? It does a couple of things to really make everything tightly integrated:

  • Longer session periods – You have more eyes staring at facebook for a longer period of time. That means higher prices for ads assuming they track their session lengths. If an average user was spending 5 minutes on facebook before, conversations with friends can extend that to 7-8 minutes. If you show an ad that lives on a browser for that long, more often than not a user will notice it.
  • Beacon integration – Perhaps chat can serve as the savior to the beacon integration. I say that because chat allows further probing into a users intent and can ideally provided targeted ads based on content and friends. It can be as simple as noticing how many times a user communicates with another user and serving targeted ads in the background to their common interests. Adding chat gives them another dimension to market on.

Unfortunately, both suggestions above will not work if they solve for the issues described in the beginning of this post. If this slows down my facebook “stalking” sessions, I’ll be more than happy to disable the chat function. It truly would be sad if I ended up treating the brand new chat application as another spam group message and throwing it right in the trash.

I’m pretty sure Zuckerburg wouldn’t be too happy….

Just my $.02…

-SD

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