31 Jan 2011

New Facebook launch as Zuckerberg meets his alter ego

Facebook launches a new application for mobile phones in the UK, allowing users to claim free gifts or discounts at a range of partner firms.


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Reuters)

Rival services

The social networking site is trying to compete with rival services like Foursquare – which shares locations, and Groupon – another US-based idea transplanted to Britain, which offers group discount deals.

And the computer giant Apple is hoping this kind of feature will help enable people to pay for things using their i-Phone or i-Pad, rather than a credit card.

It’s also about transforming popular behaviour – as one blogger put it last year: “Right now, checking in is a fairly niche activity….(But) Facebook has already shown that it can drive big changes…just look at the popularity of status updates. Checking in is another one of those behaviours that Facebook can easily push toward mass acceptance.”

In the end, though – the success of Deals will depend on how many businesses offer deals, and whether they’re worth signing up for. If it works, and people like it – it could one day open up a lucrative new revenue stream for Facebook.

But talking about people sharing more about their lives – this weekend Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg finally came face to face with the actor who plays him in the Oscar-nominated film The Social Network.

Although the movie doesn’t exactly paint a flattering picture of Zuckerberg, that now seems to be water under the bridge. Earlier this month screenwriter Aaron Sorkin thanked him personally while picking up his Golden Globe – gushing: “You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary and an altruist” in true awards-ceremony style.

Perhaps that’s why the normally-reclusive Facebook chief-turned-Time’s Man of the Year was game for more. So this weekend the comedy show Saturday Night Live went one better – as actor Jesse Eisenberg met his real-life alter ego live on set, blurting out: “I really liked you on 60 Minutes” – before getting around to the point, asking him if he’d seen The Social Network and what he thought.

“It was interesting”, a diplomatic Zuckerberg replied – before high-fiving a visibly relieved Eisenberg and introducing the rest of the show.