Features

Why Facebook the Site Will Die

Written on
Jul 8, 2010 
Author
Brandt Dainow  |

phoenix_smallADOTAS – The Facebook website has no future.

Facebook is not really a destination. Facebook is a system that provides a number of services at a single location. It provides the ability to create websites easily (as pages in Facebook), for people to search for others by interest as well as identity and for people to post data about themselves, their groups or their companies — without technical skills or fancy software.

In other words, Facebook is a web design tool, a search system and a blogging service all rolled into one interface and one URL. Under the hood are a series of services designed to analyze and monetize this activity.

The web is a computer system. The history of computing shows a pattern of absorbing highly desired capabilities into the fabric of the operating system. There was a time when you needed to load a special app to connect to the internet and when compressing a file required purchasing a special program.

Now these capabilities are built into the operating system. There were court cases in the 1980’s when Microsoft added disk repair capabilities to Windows. Prior to that you needed to buy applications from other companies in order to maintain your hard disk. Those companies sued Microsoft for breach of copyright, lost and vanished.

I had the misfortune of working as a network support technician in the 1980s. Getting a single network card to work could take hours because it required loading several programs and then configuring them to interact correctly. Getting 10 computers to network could take a week.

Now all that work is done automatically by the operating system in seconds — all those applications are built into the fabric of the operating system. Most of these applications are still separate programs, but since they’re controlled by the operating system, we call them processes. As I write this the only application I have open is my word processor, yet my PC is running 50 processes, most of these were once independent programs, which I would have had to buy, install and configure separately.

Thus we see that universally required capabilities start as independent applications but eventually melt into the fabric of the system. I think web search is going that way now.

I rarely go to Google anymore. I don’t need to — most browsers allow me to type my search directly into the address bar — the browser will work out if it’s a search or a destination and handle things for me. Alternatively I can embed a search box directly into my taskbar or desktop. Thus Google is ceasing to become a destination and starting to become part of the fabric of my system.

There’s no denying the appeal of social networking. People love to connect and talk. Everyone wants to do it, and the presence of link icons for dig.it, YouTube, Facebook, etc on many websites shows that people want to be able to exchange items of interest at any time. In other words, there is a desire to social network as we do other stuff, not only as a dedicated task.

Tim Berners-Lee is the guy who invented the web, creating HTML. His vision for the web has yet to be achieved. His original concept was that the web would enable people to create information with the same ease that they could view it. Initially he couldn’t find anyone to create a browser. Software companies simply didn’t believe ordinary people would want to look at web pages.

In the end it was university students who built the first browsers for themselves. It still took a few years for companies to accept that maybe, just maybe, ordinary people would have an interest in looking at web pages. However, until the rise of blogging and then social networking, they still refused to accept that people would also like to generate and exchange content as well.

Eventually there will be no need to visit Facebook merely because you want to engage in social networking – the ability to social network will be available to you anywhere, anytime. The concept of having to visit a special site just to social network will seem quaint.

Facebook as a website will vanish as Facebook services become part of the infrastructure of the web. Facebook will eventually morph into a set of services which will be plugged into other websites, into browsers and into the operating system. Facebook will become nothing more than a series of API’s (application programming interface’s).

This may sound a little far-fetched, but there’s someone else who thinks like this — Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and owner of Facebook. This is his vision for Facebook and it’s the direction he’s taking the company.

It’s one of the reasons he’s refused to sell the company or go for IPO — he thinks the corporate suits wouldn’t get this, and would stifle the company’s future by trying to maintain the current format of Facebook as a website. However, this is where the Facebook development effort is going.

Already you can insert many Facebook systems into your website, such as the Like button, activity feed, recommendations plugin and personalization of your site-based on the visitor’s Facebook preferences. Facebook doesn’t want to be a huge website. It wants to be a ubiquitous service.

If you want to get with the future of Facebook, if you want to get ahead of the pack in social networking, forget building Facebook pages. Master the Facebook API, and start learning how to successfully embed social networking capabilities into your own websites.

Don’t silo social networking into a special social networking website — make part of everything you create online.





Brandt Dainow is an independent web analyst with clients around the world. Combining technical expertise with business acumen, he has been helping organizations develop digital strategies since 1985 and first got involved with the web in 1992. In the 1990s he helped many leading British companies develop their first internet strategies, including Barclays Bank and British Telecom. He was involved in the development of XML and helped many technology companies integrate XML into their products, including IBI, Unisys and Microsoft. He was an early pioneer in web analytics and a founder of the International Web Analytics Association.

These days he divides his time between working as an Internet investment adviser for venture capital firms, as a web analytics consultant and as a developer of strategy for online enterprises.

Reader Comments.

Well you’re almost right. The difference is that Facebook’s features are not proprietary or necessary. The whole shebang is going to disappear.

FB’s like button and its social structure are temporary and fleeting. Like most of the features and functionality that we use the web for, they were all once a part of some sites/companies business. Now they are free and free to roam.

So fast forward 5 years. FB will be a ghost of its self and all the reasons people use FB today will be just a normal part of the web. I for one cannot wait. FB does little of value aside from making it very easy to share content with your friends.

Remember how hard it was to upload a video before YouTube? Remember how hard it was to make a website before WordPress? Remember how you had to dial into AOL to check your email? Just 3 simple examples of how one companies dominance was replaced by normalcy and technology.

Posted by Adam | 6:14 pm on July 13, 2010.

@Adam – Saying Facebook will disappear as it becomes irrelevant is incredibly naive and totally misses the point of this article. Brandt uses Google without going to the Google site because search engines are being pushed into the background (which, incidentally, destroys Google’s ad revenue model, but retains its storehouse of user behavior data.)

Zuckerberg is a smart cookie. If you are using the Facebook API, you’re using Facebook. They still see and track what you do and post. That is what makes the company so valuable. In the 2000s, newbies thought of Google as the web. Facebook may become ‘the web’ in the 2010s, which is closer to Tim Berners-Lee’s vision (as Brandt said.)

All of these fractional attempts by yahoo, google and microsoft to dilute social networking will probably fail since facebook has critical mass. These are good positions for the major players if Facebook makes a misstep or if they come up with some game changing trick, but they will likely languish in obscurity until they are dropped altogether.

Facebook’s breadth of features and API will rapidly make digg and del.ici.ous obsolete. Twitter is on the chopping block and foursquare will probably never get enough momentum since they are built on an easily duplicated location system. I just hope Facebook can continue on its trajectory without constantly pissing off its user base.

Posted by Izzy | 12:53 pm on July 20, 2010.

Hi Izzy,

I think you fail to have any historical perspective or future insight.

To say that FB will become the web is like saying that AOL would maintain its email dominance forever…

All the features of Facebook will be standard functionality in every device and service within the next 3 years. That means the reason people use the site and its services will disappear. You will not need a private company run by a megalomaniac to provide this connectivity. It will be eclipsed by other, better, faster more open and free technologies and services.

You’re right that FB is filled with smart people and many know this. That is why they will need to build some actual, real, business model soon that will provide some method for making money to support their massive costs. They are not anywhere close to solving that problem and IMHO they never will. It will run at a loss forever. Like YouTube and many, many others…

Remember that inter-polarity is key to the web working and giving the keys to that functionality to a company like FB is never going to last or be held.

But you knew that right?

In five years FB will be a MySpace, Lycos, Geocities, Excite, Aol, MySimon, BlueMountain, AltaVista, Inktomi …shall I keep going or are you going to tell me how WebVan is going to forever change the way we buy groceries…and sell me a 3billion dollar IPO.

Posted by Adam | 5:29 pm on July 20, 2010.

so you rarely go to the Google home page anymore to start a search… but are you viewing the Google search results every day?FaceBook plans to make a lot of money off placing advertising in front of the people who are likely to buy the product. They are only going to have APIs for stuff that helps drive traffic to FaceBook properties.

Posted by Wes | 10:09 am on August 17, 2010.

facebook is really a great site, but there are some shortcomings in the Internet environment for disabled insanlarıda think that major sites like Facebook can do something like that in my opinion it the perfect hand atmalılar Up breathe again facebook

Posted by facebook | 5:44 pm on November 12, 2010.

facebook is really a great site, but there are some shortcomings in the Internet environment for disabled insanlarıda think that major sites

Posted by twitter | 5:04 am on April 16, 2011.

I agree with this article – social web needs to be built into the devices we use, and preferably have autonomy and openness, not walled-in arrogance. Once something more compelling along these lines is offered, you watch Facebook fall from grace. People will leave with their clicks and mobile devices.

Facebook will go the way of the internet dodo-bird. Facebook (and social network sites in general) are like nightclubs – they wax and wane in popularity. Users are fickle, and Facebook will need to step carefully to nurture their user base or they will go the way of Myspace. Without its leech-like need for constant page hits and visits, Facebook is nothing.

Posted by Bagdroid | 9:57 pm on September 20, 2011.

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