Pacman can win is if it eats all the pellets on the board. And same goes for Mark Zuckerberg, who wants to eat all the Internet by keeping you inside the safe (and advertiser friendly) confines of Facebook (s FB). After all, that is the only way it can grow its revenues, keep Wall Street at bay and keep the stock flying. The Menlo Park
Mountain View, Calif.-based social Internet company today launched a (rolling) upgrade to its mobile app on both iOS and Android (and mobile web) that allows you to make reservations (and plans with your friends), check out showtimes for movies and essentially be less dependent on non-Facebook services.
But first the news: Facebook says has teamed up with OpenTable and would allow you to book any of the 20,000 restaurants without going to the OpenTable application. You can make list your favorite restaurants, make reservations and share details with friends — a pretty logical thing to do on a “social” network. (Of course, there are some like me who go in rarely.) Facebook engineers had developed this as a hack inside the company and a lot of people have been using it internally (at Facebook) with a lot of success. This is also yet another sign of the growing importance of local commerce — everyone from Google (s GOOG) to Yelp (s YELP) to GroupOn (s GRPN) wants a slice of it. Facebook will also show TV listing information on U.S. primetime TV shows and it is also launching movie pages. As part of this upgrade, the company will show television listings based on location, time zone etc. The company also plans to offer similar listings for movies. When asked if there was a monetary exchange (aka some kind of refer-fee) Facebook declined to offer any further details on their partnership with OpenTable.
My take: These two minor moves are only part of an ongoing effort by the company to become a major player in local commerce and influence offline spending. It is Facebook’s attempt to add “intent” as a key behavior for its 800 million strong user base. This is yet another example of Facebook squaring off with Google. Google is one of the major influencers of real time spending and that is what gives the search company such a huge chunk of online advertising. Google searches by their very nature have a degree of intent and thus an action built into that.
Facebook, so far is mostly ephemeral and lacks the specific intent. But adding services like reservations and movie and television listings is a prudent move for the company. This seems like a great move for OpenTable (s OPEN), I am not sure how this is going to turn out in the long run. While this might boost their revenues (via increased bookings) but in the will be trading their mindshare to Facebook, and increase their dependency on Facebook. And what if Facebook decides that they need to build their own local commerce infrastructure — I mean quest to grow revenues can make companies do strange things! Of course, Facebook can always go out and buy OpenTable. As far as TV & movie listings go, the move makes perfect sense, since the world is looking for a post-social, post-Internet TV guide and what better place than Facebook. It also gives them the ability to sell movie tickets on their platform. (Fandango, you have been forewarned!)
Bottomline: Facebook’s business model works if they can have most of our attention. The longer they keep us inside their four walls, the easier it is for them to not lose our attention and thus make money off us. These two seemingly small features are only part of the long time strategy of Zuckerberg to eat the entire Internet.