NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Chinese concept of a "Mandate of Heaven," through which leaders are allowed to lead, has been a feature of the online world since before the Web was spun.
I'm old enough to remember when CompuServe held this mandate, 20 years ago. If you were active online, you pretty much had to have a CompuServe account. It was where the smart people in your field were bound to be discussing things of mutual interest, which would get you smart points at work, which sent you back to CompuServe.
CompuServe, of course, lost this to AOL (AOL), which changed the focus of this mandate from what your industry did to what your friends did. AOL in turn lost it to the Web. Yahoo! (YHOO) had it for a while, and even MySpace had it for a while.
Today Facebook (FB) has it. Google (GOOG) wants it, but Facebook has it, at least among those under 40. And if you're investing in Facebook you're betting, despite the ability of this to move at the click of a mouse, that they can hold it.There are reasons for optimism. As the industry grows the mandate gets harder to move. Most people still use Windows. (Full disclosure -- I'm using it now.) Facebook's "second mover advantage" over MySpace, and its technology team's focus on using open source and cloud to keep the platform current, are all good. But you can lose the mandate in other ways. And as Facebook keeps trying to grow, each move risks the mandate, which by its nature is fickle, held in this case by teenagers and 20-somethings, the most fickle of the fickle. So you need to read the news on Facebook with this in mind, and you have to read it regularly. Ask yourself, does this move risk Facebook's "Mandate of Heaven," its reputation within its key user base? Find Friends Nearby discussed in this CNET article, is an example of something that does not risk the mandate. The idea of using geo-location to know who in your crowd may be both available and nearby is an obvious one, even if it does scare parents half to death. Ad servers have been using location to tailor the choice of ads they send you for years.
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