Take that, Google.
In an industry where companies leapfrog each other constantly, Facebook has struck the latest blow by unveiling Facebook Ads.
The company's socially oriented advertising platform comes a day after Google announced its Android mobile phone software stack and the formation of the Open Handset Alliance, and less than a week after the search giant unveiled the OpenSocial platform.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his cohorts must be smiling, delighted that Facebook is giving Google a run for its big wad of money in the marketing and media hype arena.
Microsoft must have been eagerly awaiting this announcement ever since taking a $240 million stake in Facebook, the spunky little startup that boasts 50 million users.
You can't really compare the Android announcement to Facebook Ads, other than that they both offer new wrinkles to leveraging and monetizing the Internet. What they do have in common is that, if done right, both endeavors have the opportunity to alter their respective businesses as we know them.
Android could change the way the phone business works, offering an open platform tailored for the mobile Web user; Facebook Ads could open up a new way for businesses to reach Web users they ordinarily might not reach.
It might be more appropriate to compare Facebook Ads to OpenSocial, which, not so differently from Android, aims at opening up the social networking sphere for development through common APIs.
But while OpenSocial is brand-new, Facebook has an established development platform on top of which a stunning 7,000 or so applications have been built since May 24.
Now Facebook has an ad platform bound to make Google jealous because it leverages the very thing that Google stressed was so important with its OpenSocial gig: social networking site users.
Facebook Ads is an ad system designed to help businesses target advertising to the audiences they want, through friends' referrals.
The offering includes an ad system that spreads brand messages virally through Facebook Social Ads and an interface for gauging the types of activity on Facebook that marketers care about.
Facebook's ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from users' friends with an advertiser's message, allowing it to deliver more tailored and relevant ads to Facebook users. Social Ads can appear either within a user's News Feed as sponsored content or in the ad space in the left side of the site.
But as with Android, this is bigger than just the technology.
The company already has an ecosystem. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who hinted about this platform three weeks ago at the Web 2.0 Summit, introduced Facebook Ads at an event in New York with the support of key partners. These include Blockbuster, CBS, Chase, The Coca-Cola Company, Verizon Wireless and, of course, Microsoft.
Those are some huge brands. On top of that, more than 100,000 new Facebook pages launched today, allowing users to interact and affiliate with businesses and organizations in the same way they interact with other Facebook user profiles.
Businesses can add photos, videos, music and Facebook Platform applications, while third-party developers have already created applications to enhance Facebook pages.
By offering a way to target ads for social networks, Facebook has opened up a new front in its battle against Google and MySpace. This is more than a shot across the bow of Google and MySpace; this is a fusillade of cannon fire.
I don't know much about the technology beyond what I've read, but it seems there is a lot of interaction between users and advertisers. What happened to the walled garden Facebook was so famous for? Does such a platform put users at risk to getting bombarded by advertisers?
I can't wait to see what the privacy pundits are going to say about this.