Facing Facebook's Schizophrenia?
To grow a population larger than Brazil and slightly less than than the US does Facebook need to adapt to change? And if so, could its underlying success become its ultimate downfall? Being all things to all people normally dilutes the effectiveness of any system. If governments have failed at it is Facebook enough of a chameleon to take on the challenge? Just how many faces does Facebook have?
Some social media experts, like Jesse Newhart feel that the original premise of Facebook was meant more for connecting with one's personal friends and family members while services like Twitter and LinkedIn were more attuned to networking with new contacts and branding ones' self with followers. I was also under that exact same impression. At least that's the belief I had when I first opened my Facebook account all the way back in the Fall of 2008. Now, that we are in 2009, and Facebook is approaching it's 6th year anniversary, the 250+ million-user social network seems to be re-inventing itself once again.
As successful as Facebook has become and as fast as it grew exponentially, I never expected Mark Zuckerberg to allow it to become a stagnant entity. But the changes do seem a little extreme. In a blog I recently penned titled,"...this is not your son's Facebook, anymore," I highlighted the irony of a network that grew up on a college campus now attracting senior citizens. And not only appealing to them in a cursory manner, actually drawing big numbers from this demographic. From January to July of 2009, users 55 years and older grew 513.7 percent with 16.5 percent fewer high-school users, and 21.7 percent fewer college users. Which naturally begs the question, where have all the cool kids gone, and is this the beginning of the end for the once-ultra-hip-hang-out site? A little bit bi-polar wouldn't you say?
Last week, Facebook's acquistion of FriendFeed cost Facebook the tiny tidy sum of $50 million, which was quickly followed up by an announcment that it was rolling out a quasi-Twitter platform, called Facebook Lite. So now... if "Joe Social Networker" was beginning to transition his Twitter followers over to Facebook proper, should he halt that process and divert them to FB's "Lite" product instead? Once again, so many choices to face! So little time?
Are the many faces of Facebook a schizophrenic desire to have one's cake and eat it too! Some think its FB's way to make itself more competitive with the microblogging network that has up to now alluded it. However, if one was to compare the two toe to toe, Twitter would be the Forrest Gump to Facebook's Robin Williams. One's beauty is in its simplicity, the other in its 'attention deficit disorder.'
In a humorous video produced by Mike Booth, creator of the cleverly written animated feature "SomeGreyBloke," the title character describes Facebook as a "role-playing game to collect friends." And while the satirical video is a tongue-and-cheek critique of the absurdity of attracting friends you don't really know, one has to wonder if Facebook would ever go as far as to incorporate some of these ideas into its platform, as it continues its pursuit of being all things to all people.
By the way, in case you have the inclination to check them out, the "Pointless Internet Argument Forum" actually has a presence on the Web, . Perhaps in Facebook's inimical quest to buy up more and more Internet real estate, their next major acquisition will be to acquire PIAF (for those that are interested in groups that identify themselves with inane acronyms that reference deceased "French warblers").