Someone posed this question during a j-school lecture not long ago:
“Will Facebook ever die?”
My answer? Of course it will. We can’t expect the way we use technology will stay the same 100 years from now or what social circumstances will shape our preferences. It’s possible, however, that no other challenger will replace Facebook the way Facebook replaced other peer-to-peer sites like MySpace.
But Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon because of fragmentation and linking. Right now, Facebook’s colossal popularity is due to its all-inclusive features. For example, users post photos on their pages — specifically, all their photos. Personal photos can range from weddings to embarrassing night-before parties, and they’re in the same few clicks as more professional photos. On top of that, finding someone on Facebook is almost guaranteed, so users will turn to Facebook to find someone even before LinkedIn or Twitter.
That’s not to say there are other sites available for specialization already. Let’s take the example of photos. Photojournalists tend to make up Flickr’s demographics with more sophisticated albums. Even if Flickr improves from its current clunky and slow-loading version, most users prefer posting photos to Facebook. Why? People post to Facebook because they know more people will see those photos while their friends are checking status updates or writing on other friends’ walls.
Eventually, users will be bored with Facebook. In fact, they have been, which is why Facebook rolls out new changes every few months.
But the key to Facebook’s success is the “share” button.
Posting links funny cat pictures hosting in Imgur happens on friends’ Facebook walls. Videos are uploaded onto YouTube and shared on Facebook rather than posted straight to a profile’s videos section on Facebook. That’s the fragmentation: more effective features on competitors’ websites. Those links are posted back to home base on Facebook simply because we know everyone’s on Facebook — that’s the linking.
And that’s why social media has been so sustainable thus far. Users know there isn’t a monopoly on one website; if you can’t tweet someone, at least you know you can find them somewhere else. For the time being, that somewhere else is probably Facebook.