Illustration: Sandra Kuan
Facebook may seem all-powerful, but in reality, it’s a giant with many shortcomings. But why this point of view?
Google is a tool; Facebook is a “place.” We use Google; we “are” on Facebook. And in gigantic proportions, since Facebook represents over 20% of time spent on the web. But the thing about popular places is that they really annoy those who do not want to be where everyone else is. Like teenagers and trendsetters, for example. Think about all the places or artists that you liked that suddenly became a lot less interesting to you once they were discovered and popularized by the masses.
Facebook has us well trained with status lines and “likes.” But the more mainstream it becomes, the less sexy it is. Sooner or later, another social network will appear and become the new place for rebels of all ages. Facebook is condemned to suffer the very blow it dealt to MySpace: a not-so-slow and painful death. For now, kids seem content to share their network with their mother and grandfather. But in a few years these children will be teenagers. Do you really think they will want to post in the same place then?
Facebook’s size guarantees its longevity. But just like television, the average age of users will soar as soon as another serious alternative is available. Facebook will slowly return to what it is: a modern version of a phone book. Social reality will have moved on. During this time, Google will undoubtedly continue to be the most-used Internet tool, because it’s precisely that and nothing more – a tool. This also explains its repeated failure when it tries to be a “place.”
Facebook is definitely aware of this generational shift – it’s as old as the hills, after all. The only possible strategy: use some of its billions to begin setting up its own competition by creating or purchasing a company that does the same thing, but hasn’t been branded as a place for grown ups.
Read more from Jean Pascal at A Nos Vies Numériques.