But don’t buy stock just yet.
I was reading an interesting article on Mashable about a Facebook alternative called Diaspora, which will be officially launching in just a few weeks. My initial thought was to roll my eyes. Yeah right, like people are going to leave Facebook and suddenly swarm behind a new social networking site. If nothing, this will just create more work for me, since I’ll have yet another profile that I’ll have to maintain to ensure I’m reaching potential readers who choose Diaspora over Facebook.
The story simmered in my mind all day, though, and you know what? Facebook is great, but it’s not the nature of the Internet for things to last forever. This is a living, breathing, growing, changing world, and even though I know Facebook has rabid fans and they definitely wear the crown right now, they aren’t indestructible…or at least, they are uncrownable.*
In short, Facebook may not be king forever – and here’s why:
- There are problems with Facebook that can’t just be patched. It isn’t like a group of students just decided to start a new site to make money. Those types of social networks are a dime a dozen. This is something that addresses a core Facebook problem – that it isn’t open source, which isn’t going to change.
- We’ve seen social networking Titanics sink before. Anyone out there remember MySpace? It’s easy to dismiss that site these days, unless you’re a musicain – most professional bloggers I know don’t even have profiles there – but at one time, it was the place to be, hands down. Today’s MySpace is drastically different and definitely not the leading social networking site, so there’s no reason that can’t happen to Facebook, too.
- The face of social networking is changing. Studies show that the average age of Facebook members is increasing every year. Last I saw, it was in the low 30s. As more adults join Facebook, whether it is to promote their businesses and blogs or connect with friends in a more traditional sense, values are changing. The average college student may just want a wall, some game apps, and the ability to poke friends, but more mature users value more function and control. If Facebook can’t deliver, they’ll absolutely shift to a new site.
- Facebook has some black marks on their record. When it comes to privacy, this isn’t exactly the most trustworthy company in the world. Even though I think Facebook has done a good job at addressing concerns, their privacy problems and policy criticisms have tarnished their name. New users, especially older users with little social networking experience, may choose a site they perceive to be “safer.”
- There’s money in this industry. The Diaspora project alone has proven that social media is an area where investors are hungry to throw around money. They hoped to raise 10,000 to work on the project this summer and they ended up making ten times that amount without really trying. If people are willing to fund good ideas, we’re going to see some interesting Facebook alternatives come to the market over the next few years.
- Facebook isn’t exactly intuitive. Sure, anyone can make a basic profile, but if you want to move beyond adding your contact information or favorite bands, you’re going to get frustrated. It can be done, but they don’t make it easy.