Given Facebook has more than 600 million users, the title of this blog post might be puzzling. How can anyone question the future of a service with so many users? In other words, Facebook is too big to fail.
Or is it?
Nothing lasts forever, including popular social media services. It could be argued social media services have a bigger challenge sticking around because social media users are fickle, not terribly loyal, and prone to quickly jump on something newer, sexier and shinier.One minute you have the hottest club in town, the next you’re wondering why the joint is empty.
It is important to remember that MySpace dominated the social networking market not that long ago, while Friendster was the leading player in the early days of social networking.
The uncertain future of Facebook was nicely encapsulated in an opinion piece by Douglas Rushkoff, who suggested that:
“….social media is itself as temporary as any social gathering, nightclub or party. It’s the people that matter, not the venue. So when the trend leaders of one social niche or another decide the place everyone is socializing has lost its luster or, more important, its exclusivity, they move on to the next one, taking their followers with them. (Facebook’s successor will no doubt provide an easy “migration utility” through which you can bring all your so-called friends with you, if you even want to.)
For people willing to consider the idea Facebook is vulnerable to becoming less popular, here’s a theory: the more services that Facebook launches to embrace more people, the bigger threat is creates to driving people away.
This theory works like this: As Facebook drives to add more people, the strategic path being pursued is adding more services such as location-based services (Places), e-mail and social commerce.
The upside is it gives users more options and services. The downside is it makes Facebook more cluttered and less focused on its core mission of being a place that lets people connect with family and friends. In other words, the more Facebook attempts to add more features, the further away it gets from its core raison d’etre.
The danger facing Facebook is it becomes so multi-faceted that people start to have trouble figuring out what do with it. This could create an opportunity for a new social network to create a service that has less frills but drives the core features that users really want. There would be fewer frills but that would be okay.
Admittedly, this theory might sound far-fetched given Facebook added 250 million users in 2010, and could add another 200 million 2011. Does this make Facebook invincible to something new and more interesting? In many ways, it does because size does matter and provides a huge competitive barrier to entry.
On the other hand, the social media landscape has shown itself to be fluid and dynamic. Companies that have dominated niches have seen their fortunes quickly change as new players come on the scene. To dismiss the idea of Facebook facing the same fate may seem like a remote possibility, it’s not impossible.