Facebook has had a meteoric rise to prominence over the last couple of years. There could soon be 1 billion Facebook profiles, and the name and the founders have firmly cemented their place in Internet history. But is Facebook loosing the relevancy it once controlled, and is the fragmentation of the Internet going to be the ultimate downfall of one of the biggest players in the game?
The rise of Facebook
Facebook has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. There are many reasons for this, including the realisation of the mobile web, social gaming, the Facebook platform and the continued rise of the Internet. Many factors can be attributed to Facebook’s success other than the technology and talent of its founders and employee’s. Facebook has clearly been one of several companies that actively targeted the space, but Facebook ended up the winner. The parts of this success story that can be accredited to luck, we’ll probably never know.
Social gaming and the Facebook platform
Social gaming and the creation of the Facebook platform was a stroke of genius however. For the first time, a social media website had a stickiness that set it apart from the likes of Myspace and Friendster. Social gaming, and to an extent the Facebook platform have come a long way, but how much further can they actually go? This all depends on the behemoths like Zynga coming up with another gamefication system that innovates on their already tired looking platform.
One of the side benefits of Facebook’s huge growth is that many of the people you interact with on a less than daily basis will more than likely have a Facebook profile. This de facto profiling system makes Facebook an obvious choice to evolve into more than just a social network. Facebook is an easy to use messaging system that could really shape the way we communicate in the future.
Some of the newer features of Facebook include “The timeline” and “Frictionless sharing”. To me, these two features are signs that Facebook is hurting to remain the number one aggregator of our social graph and activities. However, the market has become too fragmented for this to be a reality. We are now sharing with Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and others. These can then cross pollinate with other services, including Facebook, but the battle to be the all encompassing social network is one that is too big, even for Facebook. Facebook’s rise was at a time when they didn’t really have much competition. College students found Facebook to be a natural and addictive additive to their curiosity, but now that we have all these other sharing and social network platforms, Facebook can not possibly be the number one in all areas.
Facebook’s future innovation
Facebook does has one huge advantage over the competition though, sheer numbers. I think that Facebook should concentrate less on becoming the number one place for sharing our lives, and put more emphasis on being the best communication client they can be. I can envisage Facebook’s future going down one of two paths. Firstly, Facebook can continue to try and fight to be the number one social network, only to have it ripped away from them by a new arrival like what has happened across every industry since the dawn of time. Or secondly, Facebook can continue to innovate and push their own destiny to become a vital, and more ingrained aspect of our lives, offering a universal communication tool, a place to share to our close friends and family, and a something that transitions into a part of our background routine. Facebook should look to maintain their relevance in our lives by becoming more than just a social network, they must become as relevant as the telephone is today.