What makes him powerful: Despite mounting competition from upstarts like Twitter, foursquare and Gowalla, Facebook remains the unquestioned 800-pound gorilla of the social networking sphere. Under the stewardship of Henri Moissinac, the company continues to expand further and deeper into mobile communications as its users migrate from the desktop to the handset: More than 200 million consumers worldwide are now actively using Facebook's mobile products across all platforms, up from just 65 million a year ago. In addition, Facebook is the most popular application across most operating systems according to Nielsen Company data published in mid-September: Fifty percent of iOS users have accessed the app within the last 30 days, compared with 45 percent of BlackBerry users and 32 percent of Windows Phone users. In addition, Facebook is the second most popular app among Android users (45 percent)--only Google Maps ranks higher, and just barely (46 percent).
Moissinac continues guiding Facebook's mobile business away from standalone apps towards a horizontal, cross-platform strategy more closely resembling its website, which is now home to more than half a million social games and applications. Earlier this month, Facebook introduced a single sign-on mobile app access solution the company promises will foster a more frictionless consumer experience--the sign-in tool enables smartphone users to log in with their Facebook username and password, and from there enter any mobile app by clicking a "Login with Facebook" button. In effect, the single sign-on approach removes the need for users to type in a username or password more than once, allowing for more seamless movement across the mobile app ecosystem.
Further bolstering Facebook's mobile reach is Facebook Places, the location-based social networking solution the firm launched in August 2010. Essentially a riposte to geo-specific check-in services like foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt, Facebook Places enables users to share their current whereabouts in real time via mobile device by checking in at real-world destinations. The service also identifies contacts who've chosen to check in nearby. Facebook stresses that users control exactly how much Places information they share--consumers are given the choice whether or not to share their location when they check in, with updates limited exclusively to existing friends. Places set the stage for Facebook Deals, a new solution offering bargains and coupons to consumers who check in at physical locations like retail stores and restaurants. According to Facebook, the objective is to give merchants an opportunity to push out deals to existing customers and new customers alike, translating virtual fandom into real-world revenues.
Facebook's biggest threat? Facebook itself. Mounting concerns over its approach to privacy controls even prompted a grass-roots protest calling for members to abandon ship, but May 31's Quit Facebook Day turned out to be a bust--only about 31,000 users pledged to delete their accounts. Even so, Facebook introduced new, simplified controls promising to help users better understand what kind of information they're choosing to share, a critical step towards popularizing initiatives like Places and Deals. The company has weathered other controversies along the way, and still it continues to grow, even as other social networking phenoms like MySpace and Friendster have faded into irrelevance. For now, Facebook remains too powerful, too entrenched--and for most users, too addictive--to simply fade away. --Jason