Against this background, I found Murad Ahmed's story in the Australian, Advertising statistics show social networking platform Facebook is starting to lose friends interesting as an early sign of the process I was talking about.
Denis Wright put up a companion post to this one - The decline of FaceBook?
My thanks to a tweet from Maximos62 for this related story -Facebook Continues To Gobble Up Worldwide Competition [Infographic].
Jim: I started a comment here but it got too long,
so it is here:
Interesting thought. I can comment only on the basis of my experience with all three – FaceBook, blogging and Twitter.
FaceBook is a place where you have to agree mutually to be ‘friends’, whatever your motive may be. In my case, it was purely social.
A blog, if you want people to read it, has to have a purpose other than simply to keep a diary, unless you have remarkable flair or a remarkable life! There are millions out there, and everyone who has started one knows how invisible it is on the web, especially at the start.
Twitter connects you to people who interest you. Unless you annoy them by stalking, or making comments they find objectionable, you can see every tweet they make, and the place they invite their followers to go on the web. If they have millions of devotees, like Stephen Fry, e.g., then they won’t even know or care you are reading their tweets, unless for some reason they take a special interest in you. The people you follow, you will have chosen for your own reasons. Some will have few followers, and are delighted to have you on board. You met on Twitter because you have a common interest, not because they’re your long-lost cousin. That’s FaceBook’s department. My point is, your ‘friends’ there are probably in quite a separate category from FaceBook ones.
I'm not sure this is the right way to approach making a comment, but it seemed best. I am happy to reproduce it all as a comment if you wish (900 words)
At the start of the year I was asked (by a 'senior' person) - somewhat jokingly - 'How long until this Facebook thing dies?' I answered, honestly, that I thought it had reached its peak and would die off within two years. That was a gut feeling I had then, and one I have now.
Of course, I have nothing to base that off except very circumstantial evidence, but it's what I do believe.
I'm young (or old?) enough to have been around when MySpace was the #1 thing to have. Facebook 'feels' like MySpace did when it went 'over the hill'. When MySpace was 'good', it was a place to connect, it was a place for nobodies, it was a place to 'control' your place on the Internet. Then it became a place for celebrities to connect with fans. Then it became a way for businesses to market their products (particularly movies, musicians, albums, etc.) to easy-to-find/identify demographics (and, often, through the celebrities). And it came to a point where it wasn't as private as it had started out to be.
I can see all of these things happening on FaceBook. Celebrities are able to create 'fan pages' now. Movies can have pages, musicians, even games too. You 'like' these and you're part of the marketing machine. It's become 'too popular', Facebook, for it's own good.
And let's pay only a few words to the always evolving (some would say devolving) privacy and security 'features' at Facebook. A recent change, without even so much as a mention to the users, is the auto-suggestion for tagging in photos. Ok, it might be a small thing, but it's one *more* thing that the users don't have control over.
These little things all ad up.
If the finanical situation (as your article points out) is starting to crumble, then I can only imagine that the 'MySpace effect' has started on Facebook.
I would hedge a bet, however, that the only thing that will save/give Facebook some extra life is the way it has been engrained across countless other websites and platform. Logging into some websites *is* logging into Facebook now. Take Huffington Post, for example. They did away with their accounts system and just made your Facebook profile your account there.
There might be *too many* people relying on Facebook now to let it fail. Of course, the other option for these stakeholders is to allow (which some have) linking of multiple accounts. That is to say, you can log in with a Facebook, or a MySpace, or a Google account, etc. If they start to do that, the importance of the Facebook account is diminished and it allows those transitory users to move to the next 'it' thing without a worry.
What the next 'it' thing will be though, I don't know.
As a little aside (and unrelated to the topic of all this) I was personally hoping Google would buy Facebook when the rumours were going around. I think that would be the next 'it' thing - an integration between the 'it' in social networking (Facebook) and the rest of the Internet. Just food for thought.
@Thomas: you could be right but I think it's possible to underestimate FaceBook's potential for reinvention. Why, e.g., did it succeed where Myspace failed? My feeling is that it will take a lot longer than 2 yrs to kill off FaceBook, but then again a year is a very long time in internet terms!
One thing's for sure - Twitter will not be in 2 years what it is now, I'm sure of that.
The above comments are very interesting - except for the thought that FB might "be too big to fail".
Maybe the owners have left their run a bit too late?
And the comment re FB vs MySpace - I don't know why but I believe Mr Murdoch's involvement was a great turnoff for a lot of otherwise probably happy ms users.
Where will it all go? Well, probably, I think, to the next "rebel/outlaw" entrant. The success of the majors is gradually killing them in the eyes of all the "little people" - especially (and most significantly) the young.
Hi Denis and thanks. I have brought your post up as a postscript on the main post.
Thomas, I think that facebook suffered from the problem that if you are onto a good thing, try to improve it. My daughters went from bebo to myspace to facebook. Now they use facewbook in very particular ways. For my part, I have gone from several daily checks to a a check every few days.
KVD and Thomas, facebook will survive I think because it still has markets to penetrate. However,it will decline in the English language market.
KVD, I'm glad that you like Denis's writing. There is some good stuff there.
I would say that their best chance of sustaining their share of the social networking market would lie in China. It's blocked (for the most part) in the country, but if it were available I imagine it would be like a dam being opened.
@Denis: Just to clarify, when I say "die off" I don't mean to disappear completely, I mean to start becoming an ending fad. The growth will stop at the current levels, and people start to leave. It will still exist after that (like MySpace and Bebo), but in a smaller capacity.
@kvd: I don't think you can discount the "too big to fail" card. If so many people are intergrating it into their platforms, it's getting to that stage where it is more important to keep the status quo with it rather than to revert back to the 'old ways' of account management and lacking cross-platform integration. I think (and that's all I can do: speculate) that it has become so engrained at this point that it's (tentatively) too important for the fabric of the Internet to die off *without* there being a suitable replacement/more cross-integration (as I pointed out).
And I would certainly agree with you that Murdoch's buying of MySpace had to do with the downfall - 'he' (in as much as he hired and fired the people at the top) brought in all the changes (turning it into a marketing website) that I pointed out!
@Jim: What you pointed out definitely had an impact. But, for all of the changes that Facebook makes, some have been for the better. I imagine that people now, generally, are having the most enjoyable experience that they have ever had on Facebook. What I'm looking at is what direction can it possibly go to make it better? And, for my mind, I can't think of any that are readily available. I think that the current state of Facebook is as good as it gets, and then from here on in, it gets worse.
Similarly, you're right that it has a lot of markets to penetrate. China, Brazil, India, Japan and Korea are all markets where it has a lot of room to grow. But, the issue I see there is that they are bringing Facebook as it is now. They aren't taking over the model that dragged so many people in (away from MySpace, for example) and this current model may not drag people in and away from existing options (like Orkut in most of those identified markets) to take them to the near-monopoly position that they have in the US, etc.
I also think that there will only be a decline in the English-speaking market *if* there is a viable alternative. As such alternative doesn't exist yet (and isn't forming anywhere in the dark recesses of the Internet yet), then I give it 2 or so years to enjoy its popularity.
Thomas, the only possible alternative to:
"it is more important to keep the status quo" is not necessarily:
"to revert back to the 'old ways' of account management and lacking cross-platform integration"
And your comment:
"what direction can it possibly go to make it better? And, for my mind, I can't think of any that are readily available. I think that the current state of Facebook is as good as it gets,"
- reminds me of how I used to feel about WordStar before Word Perfect came along, only to be consumed by MsWord which itself is almost dead of bloat.
Denis' gentle comment that it's possible to underestimate.. etc., etc., is worth re-reading, and much wider application.
I have added a new BlogHerald article as a link.
Thomas, I think I disagree re the enjoyment of Facebook. It's harder now to navigate for the things that I am most interested in. I find myself doing searches or going through multiple pages to find things that once were easy.
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