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Facebook Needs A Browser

Is the next step moving beyond the homepage?

One thing I’ve noticed over the last year or so, while working in social media, is that Facebook is the one company that never really seems to take a hit. Sure, they have a terrible customer satisfaction rating (like that ever really hurt them in the first place) but it isn’t like they are losing customers because of it. When you’re a company with a user base of 800 million people, you’re big enough to take risks that may hurt the user experience without having to worry about losing those users.

The average American spends 6+ hours per month on Facebook, and that’s a number that’s increasing every month. The amazing thing about Facebook, to me, is that it seems to be immune to the “extra step” barrier that many websites, surveys, and advertisements have run into over the years. What I mean by this is, whenever you are designing a user experience you want as few steps as possible for the user to take. You will lose the attention of the user for every step they are required to make for them to reach the end-goal. The magical thing about Facebook is that users don’t mind taking an extra step or two that they would be unwilling to make elsewhere on the internet.

But why waste time with these extra steps. Facebook should get a browser.¬†Or, at least, get a skin for current browsers that includes all of the functionality of Facebook, without having to be on the website. A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to meet with some guys from Brand Thunder, a service that designs and customizes browsers. For now they have done browsers for sports teams, universities, and large companies. For example, if you installed a browser for your favorite sports team it would have a sidebar that has a stream of news and information on that team that updates in real time and is skinned with that team’s colors and logo.

Now imagine something like that, but with Facebook. Instead of having to always go to Facebook.com to see your notifications and messages, or to see who is available to chat, what if it was in your browser? Stop getting distracted with your news feed and wasting time on the website, but still get all the important stuff. If you’re on another website and want to share a video you see with a friend, just check the sidebar to send them a message rather than going to Facebook and see if they are online.

We all waste time on Facebook when we probably shouldn’t. It has become such a focal point in our online lives, that it’s become more than just a website, it defines who we are in the virtual world. A Facebook browser would not only save us a lot of time, but it would improve the user experience dramatically. There would be space for advertisements as well, which would help quell any worry about Facebook losing advertising dollars.

What do you think? Is a browser too much for Facebook, or is it a necessary step in Facebook’s evolution?