A really interesting and useful comment over on Brian's blog from Nicola Osborne talking about the rationale behind surfacing SUNCat in Facebook.

I had made the point, earlier in the thread that EDINA's decision to invest a little in creating a facade for SUNCat on Facebook's 'platform' was probably a smart move in terms of marketing.... but nothing more than this. Getting your application 'out there' to 'where the users are' is a pretty standard marketing strategy. I have seen others claiming that marketing in Facebook is different because it affords the chance for your application to 'go viral'. Nicola claims that marketing in Facebook has been successful, partly because of this effect - friends of users of the SUNCat Facebook application will see that they use it and may be tempted to install it themselves out of curiosity. This is interesting - I wonder how EDINA are able to measure this effect.

But it doesn't stop there. There seems to be a sort of unofficial 'lobby', advocating the use of Facebook to somehow enhance public sector services. The argument appears to be - umpteen million people like chatting, showing each other photos and playing scrabble, therefore we need to hang around them while they are doing this so that when they turn around we'll be right there, inviting them to use our application. Brian, in the main post, even made the point (possibly humorously) that Scrabulous, the poster-child for Facebook platform applications, might be useful for remedial English teaching. In response to this, Nicola says:

The example idea of Scrabulous for remedial English teaching is great but highlights how some services are better suited to innovative social apps than others.

Absolutely. It's well suited to suited to simple, collaborative activities. Like playing games.

There's no denying that some have got quite frothy over Facebook and it's potential to change the world. I've seen sceptics dismissed with an airy "oh, I remember people saying that at the start of the world-wide-web, and look how wrong they were". I was around then, and working with the web quite early on, and I was an enthusiast (still am) but even I remember being a little sceptical about some of the claims. Anyone remember the global village? Perhaps it's here, and it looks like Facebook....