Note: This is the first of many posts by the newest Feedbacker, Jeff Kelley.
Will Facebook die? It’s a question I get a lot. Perhaps because I’m a blogger and have a Twitter account and know cool techy tricks like how to turn off Google SafeSearch and I work for a company that makes its living doing work online, and therefore I’m supposed to know these things. Quite honestly, you’d be better off asking me if I’d one day like to own a grenade launcher, as I could give you a definitive answer: “Absolutely.”
But I do not possess such a weapon yet, and regarding Facebook’s death, all I have is an opinion. And my opinion is that Facebook will go away, and probably sometime in the next few years. But what will be left behind are the communities, concepts and connections that Facebook has created (all FarmVille farms will perish, though, hopefully by plague).
The problem for Facebook is that its best features – the features that are most widely used – are being copied and made better by other developers. You can go to places besides Facebook to talk to old friends, meet new ones, find upcoming events, discover new links, look at photos of folks, and – most importantly – stalk people you think are attractive. You just have to use multiple services to do it. Facebook is really the only place that people are going to do all that stuff in one place.
We are fast approaching an era when people will be able to customize their online experience with a variety of social networking services instead of just one big one. To put it one way: You can shop at Walmart for everything, or take an extra few minutes and visit a bunch of cooler, smaller shops.
At Feedback, we’re already seeing signs of Facebook’s great unraveling. Know when bands become “too” popular? Even the original fans start to pull away. We’re looking at you, Dave Matthews Band.
If you cut past the movie reviews and privacy issues and research what’s being said about Facebook on a grassroots level, you’ll hear from serious web users who balk at Facebook for being too mainstream. That there are too many people on it. That there are an array of better services to use to network online. That there’s too much noise on Facebook. Complaints about grammar. About too much information. And enough with the baby pictures or photos of that giant new engagement ring.
Many people, while still keeping their Facebook accounts as a sort of abandoned online home (think MySpace three years ago), are turning to less-mainstream networking services such as Twitter, Tumblr or a mix of other apps and tools found on iPhones or Droids or BlackBerrys. Games made popular on Facebook because of the social aspects can now also be played on increasingly faster and better mobile devices, and with other people. Facebook’s Events feature (which has largely become an annoyance: “Come to my DJ party 12 states away!”) are made more personal and less obnoxious through Eventbrite or RSVPHere.com, the latter of which essentially allows you to create, for free, a little microblog for your event. People can RSVP through the site, and events stay a bit more private than they would on Facebook. Plus, it’s easy to use.
You can share links and articles through a cool newspaper-like service called Paper.Li. A neat photo-sharing app for iPhone called Instagram is basically Twitter with pictures. Tumblr is the latest social media media darling. You can even add the location where you took the photo.
There are hundreds of these types of services. Many will fail. Some will not. And those are the ones that you will combine together as you desire, eventually bringing Facebook to its knees. That sentence was way too overly dramatic.
Facebook is already failing in some of its offerings. It may be too soon to call its Places location feature a dud, but Foursquare is doing a much better job of alerting burglars to empty homes.
Now, enough hate on Facebook. Let’s be real: It’s a great thing. It’s fun. It has enormous use in the business world. It connects people to companies and brands to the masses. It’s a lead generator for everything to music to movies to news articles or those neat-o things on the Internet. Facebook has a long time to go before it’s gone, even by technology standards.
Whether Facebook is here to stay depends on how well it can respond to the growing market of individual services that can do the same things it does, and how people will use those services to create their own experiences. If that’s the case, Facebook may be to social media to what the Model-T was for the automobile.