Picture how this can work for Facebook: A developer chooses to build her app using Parse. To get users to discover it, she’ll buy Facebook’s App Ads. When she hits a certain threshold, she’ll start to pay $100 a month for Parse’s services–and more as the app continues to grow. (“You don’t have to pay us until your app gets huge,” Parse’s Sukhar told the f8 crowd.) At this point, to generate revenue, the developer joins the Audience Network, where Facebook will get an unspecified cut of the ad revenue from the spots that run within her app. And finally, in an effort to get users to use her app more often, she takes advantage of deep linking or other tools Facebook might offer down the road. That’s at least four ways that Facebook could get paid off the same developer–and Facebook would garner the additional benefit of knowing which apps mobile users were excited about.

This challenge reveals a fascinating strategic shift for the social network: The greatest obstacle standing between Facebook and its ambitions has nothing to do with persuading any of us to log in to Facebook tomorrow or to spend more time using its features. It’s entirely dependent on outside app developers’ adopting these tools.

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Facebook, which is a weave of news encompassing both the self and the world, has become, for many, a de facto operating system on the web. And many of the people who aren’t busy on Facebook are up for grabs on the web but locked up on various messaging apps. What used to be called the audience is disappearing into apps, messaging and user-generated content. Media companies in search of significant traffic have to find a way into that stream.

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A decade ago, before Twitter and Instagram and when Facebook was still in its infancy, my university friends and I spent many hours lurking in Craigslist’s “missed connections” section, sipping cheap rosé while perusing posts and laughing at the desperate souls who loitered there…

Of course, I tried to look him up online but didn’t find anything. In those pre-social-media days, you often didn’t, other than where they worked or had gone to school…

Those rambunctious evenings of rosé and Craigslist stalking are long gone, but sometimes I type the name of my missed connection into Google and there he is, easily found now on nearly every social media platform… Everything I needed to know is right there, a decade too late.

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