Facebook and its various features are services that billions of people rely on every day to stay connected and in touch, but it’s hard to like.
Speaking from my own experience, Facebook is the one service I’ve long wanted to dump but simply can’t because, for better or worse, it’s the only service where I’m able to reach more than 60 percent of the people that are important to me. With 1.65 billion active monthly users and 1.09 billion daily active users spending over 20 minutes per use per day, Facebook is bigger and more influential than ever.
A one-stop window
Having lived away from Manila for almost 12 years now, Facebook has become my one-stop window home. It’s only on Facebook where I can simultaneously catch up on news, send targeted messages to old friends and classmates, and reach older relatives who no longer check their email, but are constantly glued to FB, even more than many of my much younger cousins, nephews, and nieces who haven’t updated their Facebook status in what seems to be years.
I can send emails that will remain unread for weeks, but reaching the same person on Facebook Messenger ensures I get a response within hours, sometimes even minutes. Facebook notifies me of people’s birthdays, it keeps me apprised of upcoming events, it sucks me into conversations, and it’s also one of the prime ways to subscribe to or sign into new services. There’s really no way to ignore or escape Facebook in our daily computing lives.
Facebook is the dominant social network; it’s both a living address book as well as a replacement for email and instant messaging. It’s a global nerve center for everything from the silliest brain fart posts to the place where people facing real danger first log in to tell the world that they’re still okay.
For me, and many other users, Facebook has become an inevitable part of life. Like Meralco, you can’t live without it, but many times it just feels like you live to hate it. In my opinion, Facebook’s success lies in its similarity to a polymorphic virus. It is ever-changing and expanding and yet burrows itself so deep in user’s subconscious that it becomes very difficult to shed. Facebook evolves at a fast rate; it eats up smaller services and trends and soon becomes the dominant thing in that segment. This is why few companies can even consider competing with Facebook, because by the time they emulate the best features, Facebook would have evolved into a different thing.
You can’t kill what you can’t catch
Facebook has long replaced the World Wide Web and even e-mail for most people. Companies rarely promote their websites but they are all on Facebook because that’s where their target market is. Instead of email, we now use Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram, which are all owned by Facebook. It seems like a long time ago that people really “surfed the web,” these days they’re content to scroll down their screens and look at the interminable content, some of which are good and a lot of which are useless. This is Facebook’s legacy and one that no competitor has managed to copy: Facebook is super sticky and super engaging.
That’s not all, Facebook is making a big move to replace traditional news sources and it’s also going to make huge moves in virtual reality since it now owns Oculus Rift. The first five years of Facebook were all about gaining users, they now have the users and simply need to maintain them and keep people coming back every day for various possible reasons.
There’s no other social network or online service that connects with its users on such a primal and visceral level. Twitter is good for sending quick messages and thoughts or catching up on trends, but it often feels like a void. Twitter hasn’t changed the way it fundamentally works and while people have used it creatively, it’s nowhere near as important as Facebook.
This is really Facebook’s biggest trick: there’s nowhere else for people to go if and when they’ve decided they don’t want to use the service anymore. The only other option, which is to use services like the web and e-mail that predated Facebook, doesn’t make all that sense since the community aspect, ease of communication, and ubiquity of Facebook is paramount.
Facebook killed its predecessors like Friendster and Myspace years ago; there’s no going back to those obsolete models. Google’s Google Plus tried to match Facebook but failed miserably and splintered into various services and features that have appeared on Android as separate apps.
Ubiquity, not excellence, is the key to world domination
Facebook, on the other hand, is well on its way to ubiquity and could soon own the internet or at least become the key player in the future of content consumption. During the Facebook F8 developer event, Facebook showed a chart that outlined its 10-year plan. It goes beyond Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Video, and Search and leapfrogs to next-generation technologies.
Facebook is betting big on Connectivity, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality as well as Augmented Reality. These all sound like pie in the sky concepts but they are a few years away from becoming mainstream. Of course, whether or not they take off and become the new standards remain to be seen.
The power of Facebook today is that it has become the central repository of people, interests, brands, and things that matter most to users and it manages to do this on any platform and on any device. Years ago, Facebook tried their hand at marketing their own phones. While that failed miserably, it gave Facebook a head start in making technology that can morph into any containing device and offer pretty much the same experience with predictable results.
This simply means that the only way for Facebook to be defeated, diminished, or “killed” is for users to leave the platform in droves since the large and engaged user base of Facebook is, in the end, its greatest asset.