There is no doubt that FaceBook is a force to be taken seriously, but is it sustainable?
AOL appeared to be sustainable. I'm sure there are some that don't remember AOL, so I'll briefly explain. AOL was a landing platform of all landing platforms in the 90s. One would grab a disc from anywhere and install AOL on their computer; the disc seemed to grow on trees in 1990s. Once loaded, one would use their 19-56k modem to dial into AOL. The AOL world had everything social a 1990s netizen could possibly need for about $29.95 for 20-40 hours monthly. Imagine having to monitor your online time! Imagine running out of time, but the calendar showed you still had 10-15 more days before your monthly renewal kicked in. It was tragic at the most inhumane scale! There were also the limited access numbers one could dial into, so there were times when a connection could never be made. But in the mid-90s, word started spreading that one could do many more things on something called the internet for much less money. A monthly fee for unlimited access! Let the hemorrhaging begin!
Oh, anyone remember CompuServe? Yep, there were those that thought CompuServe was the best (me included), that is, until it was replaced by, you guessed it, AOL.
Much like CompuServe and AOL's walled gardens, FaceBook is well on its way there too. As I look back at my early AOL years, I see the same things then as I see now on FaceBook.
- The same personal webpage type approach
- The same ability to publicly and privately chat
- The same email-type capabilities
- The same ability to play games
- The same ability to play movies
One can almost see the virtual walls of the Facebook domain going up every week, as more and more services are added. Just like other web companies, Mark Zuckerberg and his team wants as much time as possible that can be sucked from the audience. But, it's not really possible to continue to maintain the web presence that is needed to sustain the FaceBook business. There are too many distractions popping up every day. For example, Pinterest is a major internet traffic driver right now. It would seem it would never be able to take off, as FaceBook also has a photo sharing capability, right? Then why is it that Pinterest is doing so well? Beyond having a compelling website that intuitively drives interaction, it is new and fresh. On the other hand, FaceBook is by internet standards already old and going more stale daily. Every new website or platform that turns it's java script on is a direct threat to the ad revenue for each Facebooker needed to sustain Zuckerberg's business model.
I have four children and two with FaceBook accounts. My daughter made the statement several weeks ago that "I'm getting bored with FaceBook. There's nothing to do but chat." Shazam! The very generation the FaceBook corporation is expecting to milk all of their internet time from is bored. How many times does she, and many like here around the world, need to repeat "Facebook is boring" before that teenage pack starts looking for other things to hold their interest? Let me give you a clue, it's already happening - Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Skype, games, SMS, and more I'm sure. All of this non-FaceBook activity is occurring while they simultaneously use their computers, phones, and iPods.
The next AOL / FaceBook is probably already on a whiteboard or napkin somewhere right now being tweaked, and it will replace FaceBook with something better. Something fresh. A social platform such as AOL and FaceBook will always be around, but they are not likely to be around for ever. I don't believe FaceBook will ever go away, but neither do I believe it will maintain the strong numbers it has achieved over the past couple of years. I believe FaceBook will go the way of MySpace over the next five years; Myspace is still around, but not at all relavent.
Much like Moore's law that describes computer processing power trends, there is also a social media law that applies to FaceBook. The social media law will now be called the Miller's law. While Moore's law states change occurs every 18 months, Miller's law states changes will occur at much slower rate of 12 years. While I jest with Miller's law, the fact is that Facebook is already going stale. As stale, and not as exciting, as my coffee I've reheated three times this afternoon.