As Groucho Marx once said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”
I recently set myself up with an account on Facebook, having previously restricted my activities to work-orientated sites, such as LinkedIn. I had followed social networking from the sidelines until this point. However, I have been very aware of how social networking has profoundly changed the way that we interact on the web. I decided it was time to try it out for myself.
I have watched Facebook’s meteoric rise over recent years. During that time it has seen off competitors such as Bebo, MySpace and FriendsReunited and managed to find its own distinct niche alongside Twitter. The speed at which Facebook has achieved market dominance in social networking is even faster than Google managed to dominate internet search.
Having joined the social networking movement quite late, I decided on a “total immersion” approach and visited several other social websites to experience the breadth of options available. I was also keen to get a sense of what might be coming next.
New social websites are constantly springing up based upon interesting ideas. I have seen specialists, such as the location-based, FourSquare, the questionnaire-based Hunch and even open-source rivals such as Diaspora. It will be interesting to see if any of these can these seriously challenge Facebook. However, perhaps the biggest enemy of Facebook – is itself.
Facebook could begin suffer as it travels through the adoption curve, moving from being a new idea to part of the Establishment. In time-honoured fashion, the young people tend to leave when their parents (and grandparents) are joining the same website. There is evidence that young people are leaving Facebook and their fastest growing demographic is now the over 55s. There is a serious problem that Facebook could become ‘un-cool’ for the new generation over the next few years.
Even if this does not happen, we are likely to see a gradual splintering of social networking. This happens in many new markets as they mature and develop new business models. It is difficult for Facebook to remain “all things, to all people” under such pressure. We could see the generalists rivals take back market share, while other members defect to niche players with specific communities. Perhaps the biggest indicator that Facebook is on the wane is that ‘late-adopters’ like myself are now joining.