Facebook may be used for professional networking (particularly in Silicon Valley), but it sure isn’t set up to be. People’s profiles are all about their dating status, pictures, videos and other very personal information. It’s perfect for college dorm networking, but not so much for job or business development hunting.
LinkedIn, by contrast, is set up perfectly to network. You can see your extended network many levels deep, so you can quickly find out if you are connected to a person even with a few degrees of separation. With Facebook, you can go to your friends’ profiles and see who they are friends with, but you can’t go deeper into the social graph than that.
But that’s changing, fast. First, we noted that Facebook is creating friend grouping last month. By specifying certain friends as professional contacts, a whole different set of content can be shown to them (sans the dating status and pictures of you getting drunk). Or as Nick O’Neil puts it, Facebook may be growing up.
And now Facebook is quietly making changes to their data structure to allow for the concept of “networking.” Currently on Facebook, users can say they are looking for friendship, dating, a relationship, random play or “whatever I can get.” But networking was recently added as a desired relationship type to the API (note that it is not yet an option on Facebook itself yet).
This is newly added, according to people who are familiar with the API. It’s so new it hasn’t yet been added to the Wiki that documents the API. This means that the official API documentation is ahead of the Wiki documentation for the same functionality (the wiki was last updated two weeks ago by Facebook engineers). And it means Facebook is likely preparing to launch this new feature but isn’t quite ready yet.
Once launched, Facebook (or third party developers) could add a lot of functionality around networking. Applications could be developed that show a social graph for users who’ve said they want to network that goes much deeper than one level of friends. You could, for example, use Facebook’s people search (which is now public) to not only find people, but see exactly how you are connected to them. In effect, Facebook could build a LinkedIn-type networking application within the overall Facebook network. And that could be very bad for LinkedIn in the long run.