When Facebook Becomes Irrelevant

4 Oct

Did you have a CompuServe account back in the day? Me, too. Were you an America Online user when Steve Case ruled the Internet? Funny, so was I. They were big. They were huge. They were…the Facebook of their day.

With the arrival of a critically-acclaimed and box-office-boffo movie about Facebook, a comic book biography of its founder and blow-job journalism a-plenty for the company and Mr. Zuckerberg, to doubt the power and importance of the online social network service is virtual heresy, or simple bloody-minded contrariness.

I admit to neither, but I do submit that Facebook, too, will pass. And quickly. Much quicker than AOL or CompuServe, though maybe not as fast as MySpace, Digg, Reddit and other contemporary websites that have connected people together, grew like wildfire, then sputtered and faded into the background. Facebook is a useful fad. A stepping stone to some other thing, service, call it what you will whenever it arrives. And trust me, it will arrive.

Remember The Microsoft Network from its launch in 1995; now called simply MSN? Of course you do. And should. It remains the number two ISP in the United States. But how crucial is it to you or to the industry? Not very. It probably serves some Microsoft über strategy I’m unaware of, but it’s basically a ho-hum service that means as much to its users as any other ISP, which is to say, not much.

But when MSN appeared it struck fear into the hearts of every other ISP on the planet and was considered to be a major event in the history of global business. That’s because back then ISPs were more important than oxygen, especially if you believed the mass media; just as they say today that social networks are more worthy of our attention than ISPs or e-mail services, for example.

Maybe so. Maybe so.

Still, I’m willing to bet than within three years we won’t be talking about Facebook any longer. Oh, we’ll still be using it, though less and less. It will recede in importance into our lives like e-mail services and ISP links. Although it will remain ubiquitous for some time, it will become less valuable as we become all too comfortable with an array of social networks, of which Facebook will be one.

I raise this point only to caution folks that amazingly successful online ventures become virtually irrelevant, even ones that inspire tremendously successful movies (No, not The Social Network, but You’ve Got Mail). What happens with consumer trends is that they suffer from over-exposure, instant familiarity, then whole-hearted indifference. What’s new and fresh in Facebook now will seem as tired and tedious in short order as AOL’s pre-browser clunky user interface.

If there was any longevity to online communities, given the huge success of Apple, my eWorld account ought to be my hottest Internet destination these days. But it’s long gone now and my life is better for its absence.

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2 Responses to “When Facebook Becomes Irrelevant”

  1. Henery Schaffer October 4, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Frank Days October 5, 2010 at 6:10 am #

    Great post. I completely agree unless they can find something really sticky or irreplaceable.

    If you look back 10 years, you will see many of the top we destinations like AngelFire and GeoCities which are long gone…

    Frank

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