Over the weekend, New York Times tech reporter Nick Bilton posted an article about how Facebook can use its deep integration with other sites and apps (through Facebook Connect, the Open Graph developer platform, and Like buttons) to detect what's happening on the Internet before anyone else. "Facebook is more tapped into the pulse of people online than any company on the planet," he wrote.
The headline on the article was "Disruptions: Facebook's Real-Life ‘Spidey Sense.'" While this certainly makes, uh, sense, I'm not sure it's the best superpower comparison available. While Spidey Sense is focused more narrowly on threats to our favorite webslinger, Facebook's "power" is that it knows practically everything that's going on on the Internet—reaching out more broadly, and further out in the future, than Spidey Sense.
What's more, Facebook's integration with the Internet lets it affect the future it can see. Bilton writes:
Facebook can also use its superpower to experiment with who wins and who loses online. This was evident on April 24 when Facebook started highlighting a number of apps, including Socialcam and Viddy, both new video-sharing services that had been growing modestly. Each had a few million users. Just one week after Facebook began highlighting these apps, Viddy and Socialcam had close to 20 million active users.
Spidey-sense isn't really comparable in that respect, and doesn't have the widespread near-omniscience that Facebook has on the Internet. Would Professor X be a better comparison? Someone else?