So far, the analysis of Facebook's prospects for success or failure has centered on Facebook's capacity to monetize aggregate time spent on Facebook via some sort of Facebook-take-all advertising mechanism. This analysis seems awfully shallow and unimaginative to me.
Facebook is positioned to become the world's attention banking infrastructure. We live in an attention economy where the capacity to attract attention is given, sold, bought and traded daily…transparently and otherwise.
There are millions of humans on Facebook that are the thought, style, opinion and consumption leaders, and each on of them has a dynamic attention capital account. In my opinion, the future of Facebook lies in enabling influencers to monetize their reputations and the downstream attention that flows from each and every (thin or thick) reputation.
On Facebook, every user has a private inbox and thus a queue for processing paid (and not) requests for attention; every user has a place, a timeline, where attention is proclaimed, consumed, liked and annotated; and most importantly, Facebook has the capacity to measure and convert attention into a currency…to be spent on Facebook and elsewhere.
I wouldn't bet against Facebook yet. Then again, execution is everything…