Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Will Facebook Die?

Sean Parker: You know what's cooler than a million dollars?

Eduardo Saverin: You?

Sean Parker: A billion dollars.

I recently watched the movie The Social Network and thoroughly enjoyed it. It also forced me to think about the social networking sites once again (previous post). I also recently came across this video on facebook which cribbed about the numerous facebook cliché.

The awesome run of facebook has inspired many a budding entrepreneurs and nerdy programmers. However, is facebook merely enjoying its honeymoon period, is something which I ponder upon often. We Indians are very familiar with orkut. Orkut was the facebook of yesteryears. However, it is approaching its termination at a fast pace. There are multiple reasons suggested by people about the orkut debacle. Some point out the flaws in its security and privacy settings. Some other argue that it was facebook which killed orkut. For me I believe it was the latter which forced me into shifting from one to the other.

But over the past few months I have started getting ‘bored’ of facebook. After having used facebook for some time, I have started identifying a pattern in the way people post stuff and react to it. There would be the usual videos running around. Then there would be these status messages about life, love, exams, music, friends, picnic, something being awesome, something being sucky, beatles, tendulkar, girls, rajnikanth, alcohol, college, football, placements, birthdays, miss you, love you, sitcoms, congratulations, cricket, etc. There would be these fortune cookies, horoscopes, ask a psychic, which bitsian insect are you and hell lot of other quizzes and apps which become really annoying.  Every person makes it a point to meddle around with his relationship status. Well I think you can see the video which I mentioned before to get an idea of what I am saying.

The point is that Facebook has become predictable. The number of things which can be seen on your wall are a subset of a very small universal set. My wall looks more and more like a notice board nowadays. The reason behind this sudden decline in interest is simple. The universal set was always small. If at all, it has just grown and not shrunk (facebook is trying really hard). Initially, it was the “sense of wonder” which had gripped us when we first came across social networking. The idea of having the power to create one’s own image in a virtual world was the driving force. However, once the image has been formed now, the whole idea looks lame.

So where are things heading to? Facebook is coming up with a new unified messaging product (more). is going to be the newest entrant in the email industry. This clearly shows that facebook is now tilting towards a tried and tested internet product, Email. It has to leverage the 500 million user base, before they get really bored with it, and has to make itself an inevitable part of its user’s life ( which its current product doesn’t seem to do; at least not for me).

Taking another view to the whole discussion, let us assume a scenario where Zuckerburg would have remained less ambitious and would have settled for the millions (instead of billions). This would have meant that Facebook would have still run on a university based networking model. Although the revenue would have been way lower than what it is currently, it would have been assured of a loyal user base (college kids are passionate about anything related to their college; try me) and a sustained growth. Eventually, Facebook and other social networking sites would primarily cater to the demographic age group of 15 – 25 year old people. Taking this into consideration, the previous facebook model doesn’t look that bad after all.

My suggestion to Zuckerburg would be to take the “God wants you to know” quiz. I heard it is awesome.

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