Before you read any further, I thought I should first make one point absolutely clear to set the tone of this argument – I’m optimistic about Facebook (and Twitter) and because of that, I’m NOT pessimistic about Google Plus or other opportunities in social. Lately, I’ve found myself arguing with others about Facebook and whether it’s going the way of AOL. Every time I’ve had this argument, I’ve had one answer to say – Facebook is here to stay.
Recent developments at Facebook including it’s extremely high valuation, the possibility of an IPO and flurry of new features that haven’t kicked off well with users have seen increased amounts of naysayers and yes, they do have a few valid points. What’s more, the launch of Google Plus meant that Zuck and gang have one more thing to worry about. While most of this article is focused on Facebook, the points made here may as well go with Twitter too. I believe that both these networks are here to stay and here’s why.
1. User Base
Come on, which new service (even Google Plus) can get to 750 Million (or around 200 Million in the case of Twitter) users? While these gargantuan numbers are a huge driving force that will hold these networks up for a long time, another important metric to solidify my point are loyalists and celebrities who have established massive likes and followers. These followers won’t switch to another network as easily as tech-savvy Internet gurus (Robert Scoble being the most notable). It will take a lot of time, functionality and persuasion to get people out of Facebook and onto a new network.
The argument I always receive to this point is that users have migrated to new services in the past such as the transition from MySpace to Facebook itself. Here’s my take on this. Back in 2006, we were less mobile, we took fewer pictures and we were signed into fewer applications (if any at all) using a service like MySpace. Today, it would take a lot of effort to convince users to re-upload / transfer all their precious party pictures, relationships, permissions to applications and also change their browser’s default home page to a new network. I’m not sure how convincing a new service must be to achieve this level of co-operation from a user.
2. Extended Network
According to me, Facebook is the first real online platform. Think Microsoft Windows for the web. It’s not an operating system but, it might as well be. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the place you go to say – work on a document or email your colleague but, it’s enabling others to tap into it’s databases flush with user information to build smarter, socially equipped applications that can help you do just that. Everything from Office Online to Skype are now ‘Facebook Ready’. This level of penetration into the web developer community is hard to achieve even for a company like Google. This is something that Microsoft relied on heavily during the early days of Windows. This is what Apple did with iOS. No applications, no platform. No platform means fewer users. This means everything in the technology business.
Add to that – widgets. Facebook comments, like boxes and suggestions. I hardly think it would be easy for anyone to re-create all of these and convince millions of website owners to switch to another social widget. People will login with Facebook. You can’t change that. Not until someone builds something much more beautiful.
3. Media Love
Facebook generated an immense amount of negative press early on thanks to it’s privacy issues. While most people think that this may have been bad for Facebook, I think it’s the most amazing thing to have ever happened to it. Negative press is a very tricky thing. If played right – which Facebook did, you can cash in on it like no other. People have this odd attraction to conflict, messiness and war. Just like Steve Jobs. Just like Britney Spears. Just like Charlie Sheen. The negativity about Facebook may have initially brought in users who just wanted to check what the fuss was all about and when Facebook fixed the issues it was too late for these users and their friends to use anything else. Nice.
Also, how can we not mention the Oscar winning movie? Not even Google had a movie made about it! Why? There was no conflict. There was nothing as messy in it’s creation. No one lost their girlfriend (at least as per the movie). If you loved the movie, it’s because you love how Facebook was made. You love the mess it went through. It’s what got you to use it. That and because everyone else are on it.
All of this mean that it’s very difficult for another service to come and take over social. Then again, you never know and this clearly doesn’t justify Facebook’s high valuation. So far, Facebook has played it well. To continue to remain on the top, they need to innovate constantly and I’m confident that they will.
If you still log onto Facebook more than Google Plus, you’ll hopefully agree with me. What are your thoughts on the topic? Would you switch to another service? Comments. By the way, that’s powered by Facebook.
What’s your opinion?
[Guest article by Nagarjun Palavalli, founder of Eduora.com.]