Facebook is making strategic moves to evolve into something greater than a Classmates.com with silly quizzes. It purchased FriendFeed, a popular niche social networking platform, and the talented development team that built it. It has rolled out new search functionality, and a new ability to share status updates with the entire network in real-time. It has rumored connections to the recently announced RockMelt web browser and is supposedly working on a payment system. All of these moves work to keep Facebook one step ahead of competing sites and establish itself as a must-use platform.

And why not? Facebook is no Google (yet), but they have amassed over 250 million members in a relatively short amount of time. More importantly, it seems that Facebook reached the critical mass where membership becomes self-feeding and grows exponentially. Every new member of Facebook is reaching out to their friends and family and inviting them to also join the Facebook network so they can share status updates, photos, compete against each other in web-based games, and take silly quizzes about what personality disorder they have.

Earlier this year Nielsen reported that Facebook had become the most-used networking site. In April alone users spent 13.9 billion...with a ‘B', minutes on Facebook. Facebook users share their likes and dislikes and join groups that are of interest to them. Facebook is in a unique position to capitalize on that goldmine of marketing data. If Facebook can leverage its vast and growing membership and find ways to both extend the amount of time users invest on the site, and find ways to leverage that time into products and services that generate revenue, it can break the mold of what social networking is supposed to be.

Perhaps Google feels the Facebook heat? Google has learned well from its arch-rival Microsoft. If you can't buy the competition, then you figure out what the competition is doing right and incorporate that functionality into your products or platform. This past week it quietly rolled out some new social networking functionality within iGoogle, its personalized web portal home page. iGoogle is evolving into a platform for social applications, similar to the thousands of apps used by Facebook members, complete with a status update page that will let users track which applications their friends and contacts are using.

Social networking sites come and go. People are familiar with names like MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but there have been many others as well. Imaginative and innovative individuals are constantly seeking the magic formula for Internet success. MySpace skyrocketed to become a household name, but quickly flamed out and is rapidly fading to obscurity. Alta Vista and Excite were once search engine stars as well. Facebook is making strategic moves to be the next Google instead of the next MySpace.

source - pcworld.com