Facebook could be ‘dead within three years’ according to US scientists, leading to speculation that Facebook really could be the next MySpace. The growth of Facebook in the summer of 2006 was like nothing the internet had ever seen before. Meteoric, viral, – the adjectives are nearly endless and they all encapsulate the idea of a website that sped from unknown to household name in the blink of an eye. In ’06 people were speculating that Facebook could become the next MySpace. 8 years later, those speculators are starting to look prophetic.
Whilst the growth of Facebook truly was meteoric, it wasn’t unprecedented. In the context of the summers of 2005 and 2006, the world already had a hugely popular social networking website – MySpace. MySpace didn’t grow as fast as Facebook – the internet simply wasn’t as big back when it was virally booming – but the pioneering social network did arrive on the scene overnight. Its veritable explosion in popularity was the equal of Facebook’s in its swiftness, but perhaps as a fore-bearer for its successors fate, it also died out to virtual extinction as quickly as it bloomed.
In 2006 we asked if Facebook will be the next MySpace. We never imagined that the two social networks would follow each others trajectory quite so closely. However, you may now be thinking its our turn to turn prophetic, as where is the evidence that the $85 billion Facebook will turn sour in the same manner as its predecessor?
The evidence is starting to shine through though. In developed markets, countries like the USA and the UK, Facebook has been shedding key members – notably those in the key ‘early adopter’ demographics – for at least 24 months. US scientists see this as being merely a starter though – they believe that Facebook will become extinct overnight, dying “like the bubonic plague”. How can this be so, though?
The scientists at Princeton University point to the infectious nature of the site. Facebook’s charms lay in simplicity, access to friends’ pictures, walls and social lives. The simple charms that grew the empire are failing to draw in the punters in the same way, though. Now people are increasingly becoming immune – or at least indifferent – to the ‘Facebook infection’.
By 2017, Facebook will have shed over 80 percent of its user base. In just under a fortnight, Zuckerberg and co will mark the sites tenth birthday, a massive achievement in a week when its valuation closed in on $100 billion. Its already had a great run, outlasting the slew of early social sites, including Friendster, Bebo and MySpace. Yet, its an undeniable fact that the number of Google searches for ‘Facebook’ – and other associated ‘branded terms’ – are tanking. In fact, the trend is alarming, with month on month declines coming ever since December 2012. Thats 13 months of consecutive search share losses.
There are mitigating factors. Apps are an enormous part of Facebook in an increasingly mobile internet. The company are due to update their investors about their current traffic figures – at least they were seeing 1.2 billion unique active users per month – so bar a truly alarming drop, Facebook are still engaging with a staggering volume of the worlds internet users. However, the signs are not positive, as indicated by the company’s CFO David Ebersman. Ebersman echoed the gears of COO Sheryl Sandberg, whose previously stated that the company is losing market share amongst young users. This was recently echoed by Ebersman when he stated “We did see a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens.”
Whatever the truth – and certainly the growth of the mobile and app internet is a huge factor – this seems to be a seminal period in the history of Facebook. If users are beginning to lose interest, does Mark Zuckerberg have the ideas and personal drive – lets not forget the billions of dollars that he’s already made – to turn the company back around. We could be about to see the biggest challenge of Zuckerberg’s career, the time when he has to hsow that he truly is top-tier CEO material,, otherwise Facebook really could be the next MySpace.