On May 23, 2012, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an opinion piece I wrote called, “The Death of Facebook“:
With a $16 billion IPO behind it and its billionth user on the horizon, Facebook has made it hard to imagine a world without it. Yet the technology industry is notorious for booms and busts. Can you remember the last time you fired up a Netscape browser, visited a GeoCities website, or invited a friend to join AOL Instant Messenger? I’m convinced that Facebook is as doomed to fail as those ventures.To remain vibrant and relevant, Facebook must overcome daunting challenges. Unless it can deftly incorporate future waves of innovation, it faces the fate of other once-successful technology companies: death.Listen closely and you can hear the death knell: Facebook is no longer cool; the once-clean interface is cluttered; and better applications are taking off even faster than Facebook did.Already, Facebook is in danger of being really good at something people are no longer interested in: sharing content with their acquaintances. And with around 85 percent of its revenue coming from advertising, it lives or dies by its number of users. Moreover, the larger it becomes, the more difficulty it will have adapting to the technological advances and user expectations of tomorrow.For example, Facebook was once a top destination for photo-sharing. However, as consumers shift to taking photos with smartphones instead of digital cameras, the network’s photo-sharing experience is beginning to feel dated and tired. The company acquired the photo-sharing service Instagram to address that issue, but it now faces the daunting task of integrating the services.In addition, many people already find Facebook too complicated. Adding features has made this problem worse, not better.Facebook’s ability to improve the user experience is also limited by its fundamentally flawed model of social interaction, which is based on the idea that every individual has a single social identity. This may have been true for the college students who were its first users, but it does not account for the multiple roles of adults in work, community, and family life. As a college professor, I interact with my students one way and with my colleagues, friends, relatives, and neighbors in others.Another flaw in Facebook’s presentation of social relationships is that until recently, it required all social connections to be reciprocal. That is, you can view my updates only if I agree to see yours. While the addition of Facebook “followers” acknowledges this limitation of Facebook “friends,” it further confuses an already cluttered user experience.
As the best-known social-networking site, Facebook is also a primary target of both abusive practices and backlash. It seems as if each new feature — most recently, timelines and frictionless sharing — renews privacy concerns. Some employers are now asking job applicants to share their private information on Facebook, making a long history of usage a potential liability instead of an asset.
With declining benefits and increasing risks, users are more likely to leave. This is a deadly result for a company in a mature market.
Five years ago, few of us were using Facebook. Five years from now, that will likely be true again. The future of social media will combine people we know (our social networks), the topics we are interested in (interest networks), and where we are (location-based services), all optimized for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile technology. Facebook is a dominant social-networking platform, but it barely competes in these other categories.
Users flock to the services that provide the most compelling experience; advertisers and brands follow. As users move to new options, a downward spiral into irrelevance can happen virtually overnight. The technology graveyard is full of former market leaders like Netscape, Geocities, and AOL, all of which failed to provide the next big thing. The odds are that Facebook will, too.
Steven L. Johnson is an assistant professor of management information systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, where he teaches social-media innovation. His website is http://stevenljohnson.org.
What’s your take? Do you expect to use Facebook as much in 5 years as you do today?
Image credit: dislike button by Sean MacEntee
Faculty here in the Management Information Systems department of the Temple U. Fox School of Business have been showing up in the media a lot lately. Here are three recent stories.
Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer has an article by Robert Strauss on early and late adopters of computer technology. I had a really enjoyable half hour discussion with him a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been eager to see the results.
Check out the article: Snatching or shunning the latest in tech
Here’s my favorite parts.
Plus, committing early helps advertise to others who you are and what you value. “If you are a big fan of Apple products, standing in line on the first day is an event, like people who stand in line, say, for Springsteen tickets,” said Steven Johnson, director of social media programs at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
“It shows you are a loyal fan.”
Still, for the early-in folks, those extra few months may be worth it, said Johnson. Being robust users, they get more experience with their product immediately, meaning by the time the price goes down, they may already have gotten their money’s worth.
A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Dave Lindorff of Treasury & Risk (a magazine for senior financial executives in Corporate America). I’m pleased with the results.
Facing up to Facebook: Employees’ use of social media offers risks and rewards.
“Whether they know it or not, every Fortune 1000 company has some kind of online reputation that is being formed and re-formed every day by what people are Twittering and putting on Facebook,” says Steven Johnson, an assistant professor of management information systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “Companies can monitor that, or they can participate in the discussion—or they can just put their heads in the sand.”
A company that has a sophisticated program for monitoring its brand on social networks is Staples, he says. A team responds to negative references and also thanks people who say nice things about the company.
But there’s more involved than just reputation buffing. “Social media also allows employees to share knowledge, managers and employees to communicate, and companies to learn from their customers and suppliers,” Johnson says.
Technology companies like Apple and Microsoft have used social media as a way to get customers to brainstorm and solve software problems, he notes.
“There’s really very little downside to having your employees use social media,” Johnson says, “unless you have a company with very bad employee morale.”
Click through, the whole article is worth a read.
These charts explain the real death of the music industry. Here’s just one of them:
Read the whole post for an excellent example of data analysis, data visualization and interesting insights on the music industry.
Michael DeGusta’s conclusion is that digitization has hurt music industry revenues primarily because people just buy the singles they want instead of entire albums.
There’s another reason he doesn’t talk about. In the vinyl to cassette to CD (and video) transition, there were people who bought the same album multiple times on new media. I was in the prime music buying years of my life in the ’80s and ended up purchasing dozens of albums in multiple formats.
In the CD to digital transition, that hasn’t happened. I’ve bought a few new albums in digital but nothing that I already purchased before.