After a decade filled with legal battles, more than one billion active users, status updates, and the term “youngest billionaire” thrown around, it appears that “supposedly” everyone has had enough of Facebook.
Sure, Facebook made MSN messenger obsolete, leaving only fond feelings of nostalgia toward the now ancient relic in online communication, while causing a social phenomenon which changed the world forever and even inspired a good book and fairly decent movie. Facebook has assisted in the creation of countless relationships, long lost family members and friends reunited, as well as billions of selfies.
Even after reflecting over all the aspects of Facebook that users love or love to hate, it is strikingly evident that the consensus based on what appears to be daily research is we want Facebook dead. A simple Google news search for Facebook will bring up a plethora of different articles from various research firms with headlines stating that teenagers are leaving Facebook in droves, or my personal favourite, Facebook is like a pathogen and will lose the majority of its users within three years.
Three years in the technology industry is a really long time—it only took BlackBerry less than a year for its stock to plummet into obscurity. To predict what a company that has the capital and global reach of Facebook will be doing in three years is a bold stance. However, before we all storm the Bastille and cart off Facebook to the economic guillotine, why do we want Facebook to disappear again?
One cannot be oblivious to the fact that the interaction on Facebook is lacklustre in comparison to the excitement which surrounded the service in days gone by. Facebook has done everything right in regards to proper startup etiquette. The company raised capital from renowned investment firms, focused on the user growth and experience, and went public with the one of the largest initial public offering in US history.
On paper, everything seems right, and for a time everything was going right for the company. The $100 billion stock market fiasco with the company being largely over valued would seem to have been the thorn in the side for Facebook’s growth. The share price plummeted, analysts snarled, and Zuckerberg's stance was “we will focus on the product and not the market." Those words did not sit well with investors, but fast forward to the present and the stock is outperforming expectations, the market valuation is over $140 billion, and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has finally joined the exclusive women billionaire's club.
Despite the positive changes that have occurred financially for the company in 2013, the whispers of doom and gloom appear to be increasing vocally and are louder then before. In the 2000s, the issue with Facebook was monetizing a social utility that uses a business model based on people posting status updates and pictures. The naysayers did not believe that the hoodie-wearing CEO could produce a profit. Revenue concerns are now a past issue, and so are monetizing the mobile users. For a company who has over one seventh of the world using its service with proven revenue models, enough capital to buy out new competitors and offer $3 billion cash on a whim to Snapchat, it would appear that Facebook is in its Golden Age— financially speaking.
The issue is Facebook’s largest commodity—its users—are leaving, not by deactivating accounts but through disengagement with the service. It is no surprise that the teenage demographic is moving on from the site as the average user age is currently 39, a 20-year age increase from 2006 when it was 19. It is off-putting for teens as the platform that once fortified against adult encroachment now has aunts, uncles and grandparents reading their posts.
The online experience for all users is where potential issues loom. From speaking with users the majority do not actively engage with the site’s plethora of features, but just scroll down the newsfeed and logout.
The use of the website is more out of daily routine than an enthusiastic desire to be involved. Omitting the beginning stages of teen withdrawal and general mediocrity, it is very unlikely that Facebook will lose the majority of its users. Facebook is a part of a one billion people’s daily experience and the worldwide internet accessibility is growing exponentially, creating a new crop of potential users for the service. Facebook is now a mature company which has overcome numerous financial obstacles to become the leader of the social media revolution. The company expects revenue to be over $7 billion for 2013, equating to a 50 percent increase year-over-year.
Most likely the only thing Facebook will lose in three years is the hype around the service, which is not really a big deal once a service becomes ubiquitous in its sector. Rarely does anyone say, “hey, you should drink Coca-Cola, it is really good.” In 2014, yet the company’s revenue was over $48 billion because it is established.
Despite what researchers hypothesize, analyst speculate, and some users may hope for, if one billion people share a common routine, old habits die hard.