Unlike Facebook

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Unlike Facebook

Once thriving, the first massive social network in the world was Myspace. But now it is considered to be a thing of the past. Now it seems like it happened overnight, almost. And the question “Why” is really irrelevant. At one point it just wasn’t – wasn’t providing a good service anymore, wasn’t innovating. “MySpace is very 2004,” some users say, and they are right, the user-interface might not be, but the user-experience surely is. And eventually, this is the only thing that matters

Unlike Facebook | The Ukrainian Tribune

While we are probably not living in the time of another dot-com speculative bubble era, companies come and go, like they always did. The examples are plenty. Do you remember AOL, Yahoo!, Nokia, Kodak – all are big “indestructible” leaders of the past. And what all of them have in common? They were the best, but blind to see the changes and what is more important to lead them. As it turned out – sometimes it is pretty hard to see far enough, while being on top of the big fancy mountain called success.

T minus 3 years and counting

The forecasts of Facebook’s impending doom are plenty, but this one is particularly interesting and not only because it has been prepared by the researchers at Princeton University but also because it was made by comparing the growth curve of epidemics to those of online social networks. Scientists argue that, like the bubonic plague, Facebook will eventually die out. And if you believe like the crazy but brilliant mathematician from the movie “Pi” that everything in nature has a pattern, it just may make the perfect sense for you.

According to the research, Facebook has spread like an infectious disease, but as we become immune to its attractions, Princeton forecast says it will lose 80% of its peak user base within the next three years.

There is also another interesting report that compares the Facebook’s demographics from 2011 to 2013, it concludes that teen users have declined by approximately 25%, while users of 55 years and older had grown by an astonishing 88%. And if this is not a sign of ascending doom in our fast-changing and ever-changing world I don’t know what is. It plainly states that Facebook will never be cool again.

A question of definitions

The way we use Facebook and especially the way we need Facebook is changing. Gradually, it’s becoming a far more passive hub for online social interactions. People are using Facebook less intensively than before. They visit it to check their newsfeed without actively posting anything or interacting with other users. Now smaller networks and messaging apps are capturing a lot of the activities that used to take place on the big networks. In fact, back in 2012 the average Facebook user was only active on 2.56 social networks, today he is using 4.15. According to the GlobalWeb Index Social report for Q1 2015, Facebook still has the biggest number of active users – 42%, but less than two years ago, it was 53%. And what might be even more important – it is the only major network to have seen a drop in active usage during the last year (-9%).

But why does Facebook keep announcing increases in active usage, where the GWI Social report has shown consistent drops over the last few quarters? As always with statistics – it’s all a question of definitions. Compare GWI’s data for Facebook visitors vs Facebook active users, and the results are pretty revealing. In fact, taking the last eight quarters as an example shows that visitation rates have been holding largely steady, whereas active usage has been trending downwards. While people aren’t necessarily leaving Facebook just yet, they are becoming less likely to interact with it in active ways.

Facebook and Free marketeers

And it is not only about the users, most marketers aren’t sure their Facebook marketing is effective. Only 45% of marketers feel like their Facebook efforts are working, says the Global Web Index Social report for Q1 2015. What is interesting is that especially B2C marketers were far more likely to agree with that statement – 51%, than their B2B peers – 36%. It doesn’t look too good when you think about the word “social” in this social network.

It looks like Facebook is trying to marginalize referrals through likes and comments to make the only possible way to grow an audience is through paid posts and advertising. Facebook is making it more evident – it is just another advertising platform and hey, nobody is really asking your opinion on the subject. And it is not the only subject Facebook is not going to ask your opinion about. The monetization can be a tricky business, especially when you don’t know when to stop.

Overrule Facebook!

Over several years now many users have complained to the Facebook administration that their accounts have been blocked for non-obvious reasons. As often with the administrations, it hadn’t taken the issue seriously. A growing number of russian and Ukrainian Facebook users have had their accounts temporarily suspended. In December 2014 Facebook blocked the page of a russian opposition rally. Facebook has also suspended and threatened to permanently delete the account of Liao Yiwu, one of the most prominent Chinese dissidents now in exile. A group of social media users even started an online petition to protest against biased blocking. But the social network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has answered to some of the concerns publicly and mostly dismissed the accusations. All users got – was only a weak response.

Some say there are armies of trolls on a payroll out there that submitting thousands of policy violation reports, targeting their victims. And Facebook just indiscriminately reacts by blocking the accounts. Well, be it as it may, it doesn’t change the fact that the company didn’t do anything to address the issue. And the easy answer is – it simply doesn’t care for several users when it has hundreds of millions.

Another problem is personal information and illegal data mining. Belgium’s national privacy watchdog says Facebook tracks the behavior of both members and non-members and wants to take this matter to court because it is illegal under European law. It also noted that Facebook tracks the behavior of people who are not members of Facebook. “Even people who explicitly state that they do not want to be tracked, are tracked anyway”, writes Belgian newspaper De Morgen. It may not seem like a big problem for now, for Facebook that is. But problems tend to pile up, especially if you are dismissing their very existence.

The “mount” of sugar may get sour

At the very beginning, Facebook has offered a free global social network for everyone, but it seems now it is falling short to deliver the promise. And when this simple idea will take root in the minds of the critical mass of the users it will be too late for Facebook. Like with any other empire, to thrive or at least to continue to exist, it has to and quite eagerly becomes increasingly oppressive, forgetting that its power and wealth ultimately come from the users of the system and therefore can be withdrawn at any moment.

Though it is not to be expected for Facebook to go under anytime soon, if you graph the numbers of any system – the pattern emerges. People may be waiting for the moment when new, “just” network for everyone will appear, unlike Facebook.

First published in 2015

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