What Can't Facebook Do, Anyway?

Oh, Facebook. You bring us so much joy, and you help us to waste so much valuable time. But you're useful in so many ways, and you keep us connected (at arm's reach, anyway) with a vast array of high school sweethearts that we'd otherwise never even bother to look for. But can you be more than that?

It's obvious that its creators think so, with the recent acquisition of FriendFeed and the testing of a Facebook Lite. But even still, is that the limit? Is there a limit? With Twitter and Facebook emerging as two potent social utilities that may actually have a future beyond their first 15 minutes of fame, one has to wonder if Facebook won't be transformed into a destination for knowledge rather than just a destination for status updates.

Think about it--the infrastructure to make it happen is already in place. Over 250 million users are connected, with loads of newcomers joining each day. It has international reach, and it's able to keep users up-to-date on the latest happenings in real time. Users can search for each other, for news, for photos and for events. We're pretty sure you see what we're getting at, but ask yourself--what can't Facebook do if given the right coaching? Haim Mendelson, a professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, asserted the following:

"When you become the site that people spend enough hours on everyday it's very natural to take advantage of that and to become the site that tries to provide all the services that portals provide."

Indeed, it is. Facebook could very easily morph its search box into one that scans for more than local members and hot topics. It could one day search for restaurant recommendations from friends and colleagues within a certain city. It could scan for college suite-mates that have yet to get hitched. It could respond to the requests that you're currently sending to Google, Yahoo or Bing. In reality, it could become your next search engine, and it could add a personal flair like no other.

And why stop there? Facebook could easily rival services such as Skype and PayPal. If Facebook were to integrate a VoIP application and a payment suite into its website, you could phone a friend or send over that $5 you owe Joe Moneymaker with merely a click. It may sound crazy at first, but Facebook truly has the potential to become more than it was ever originally designed to be. Without a doubt, it may just outgrow its own URL name in scope and reach. Google recently introduced a tweaked version of its search engine dubbed Caffeine, and while it's in prototype form right now, it promises to provide even more relvant search results. Which, without a doubt, is something that Facebook could attempt to do as well.

Now, we're not saying that Facebook will ever attempt to go head-to-head with Google, but in a lot of ways, we could see folks shifting certain, more personal searches to a refined Facebook rather than a faceless Google. And if Facebook decides to enter into the services business, other standalone outfits should definitely fear it. Facebook has the momentum to turn the social Internet world on its head, the only question now is how soon will it choose to do so?