Hurray! Put on your Zuckerberg masks – it’s Facebook day!

Steve Dinneen
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IT’S Facebook day! Put on your cut-out Mark Zuckerberg masks. Celebrate by poking your colleagues; remember – you can’t be taken to a tribunal on Facebook day.

Today, of course, being the F8 (fate, see) conference in San Fransisco where the social network will layout the next stage in its plans for world domination. Later this afternoon we can congregate around a computer screen to watch Zuckerberg address the globe, in much the same way our grandparents hunched over a fuzzy black and white television to watch the Queen’s coronation.

While I understand Facebook’s progress on the construction of the Death Star will remain under wraps for the time being, what we can expect is a big announcement on its long-rumoured music service. It is likely to allow users to recommend and share tracks (a bit like Apple’s Ping) by linking to streaming services such as Spotify, whose chief executive Daniel Ek is speaking at the event today.

The other key announcement is likely to be a news service, with Facebook partnering with companies including CNN and the Washington Post to produce editions that can be read from within the site.

The question is, will either be enough to tempt you to stay inside Facebook rather than simply click out into the rest of the web? It’s a tall order, especially in light of Facebook’s recent launches (ever received an email from an address? Me neither).

Mike Elgan from Datamation argues that Facebook is at risk of becoming the new Yahoo – a sprawling, directionless, many-headed beast, constantly playing catch-up with newer, nimbler rivals; maintaining a hulking user base but unsure what to do with them.

Yahoo, he argues, was a giant born in an age when portals, rather than search, were the core of the internet. When the rug was pulled from under it (by Google, with its clean, simple search box), it spent the next decade chasing trends, never quite catching the wave before it had broken. Rather than changing its direction to suit the market, Yahoo desperately added more bells and whistles.

Like Twitter, Facebook’s initial success was down to its simplicity: doing one thing very, very well. Conversely, MySpace’s downfall was partly down to its cluttered, unfocused interface.

Facebook isn’t there yet. Its user base continues to climb ever closer to the 1bn mark, despite waning interest in its mature markets. Now it just needs to stay on top.

Today will give a clearer picture of whether Zuckerberg knows which direction to turn, or if he’s just loading on more bells and whistles. Either way, I’ll be squatting in front of my laptop, wearing my Zuckerberg mask, cheering along with the rest of you.