It’s the ultimate irony. Names Database was the original social network with a 10-year lead. It now has a page on Facebook with all of three ‘likes’ with borrowed Wikipedia content! It took over Classmates, another site that started with the same avowed objective in 1995 – that’s now literally become a trip down memory lane with nostalgic content (Regret doesn’t get better expressed). Facebook tossed them aside like roofing sheets in a typhoon. With over 30 million members, they would be respectable by any other standard but are completely insignificant in the current social context. Facebook did a lot right and the question now is, will it continue to execute?
This is how Zuckerberg sees it. Facebook has one perspective on the world – social, and while it is the company’s biggest strength, it could also become its greatest weakness as it tries to transform everything it touches from small businesses to gaming to group buying to local. Even in the case of political ideas, democracy competes with communism, religious fundamentalism and dictatorship for the levers of power. So the very act of growing at a scorching pace brings its own set of obstacles. Google has had to contend with the Chinese government when its transparency threatened the government’s diktats.
From a user perspective as well, there is likely to be fatigue sooner rather than later. It’s the reality of today’s attention deficit economy. Will the fans who spend hours on Facebook today continue to do so 4-5 years from now? That’s far from certain. Google does not have the same allure as Facebook anymore and Microsoft is looking ancient, even though revenues are strong and solid as a business. The New Big Thing is always replaced by The Next New Thing. Groupon and Twitter have great valuations but… There was a time when MySpace and Second Life registered astounding growth but they are no longer on a ‘must watch’ list anymore. The truth is, we’ll all move on.