10 years ago in a dorm room in Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg was launching the site that would make him a billionaire and would become the largest social media network in history. I doubt he knew what impact the site he started would eventually have. Many entrepreneurs have visions of grandeur and expect their companies to be successful. But who could imagine that their website would eventually house a user base that is equal to the population of India, the second most populated country in the world.
I myself signed up for Facebook back when you needed a school email to join. I made the switch from Myspace and decided to give it a try. I immediately enjoyed it more than the flashy, in your face experience that Myspace had become. So, I deleted my Myspace account and never looked back. While my interest has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve still maintained my Facebook page. I’ve clicked on a few ads, and I’ve posted a few pictures. I imagine that I’m your typical Facebook user. So, I thought I would give my thoughts on where the website has come and where I see it going.
The changes in the user experience for Facebook have been incremental and have taken years to develop. But when you view them as a whole, the experience is completely different from where it was over 10 years ago. Facebook grew from being a social network where you could share photos and check the relationship status of a girl in your psych class, to become a part of our daily lives. People now integrate Facebook into their phones, their appliances, their cars, and even the technology they wear on their body. It has become ubiquitous. And I believe this may be a bad thing.
When Facebook was solely a social network that you could log on and spend a few hours, it was a small facet of your life. It didn’t require a ton of time and it provided the user with a nice escape. However, now that the website has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, it can no longer be an escape. Rather, we now look for escapes from it!
I probably see a couple of posts per week from individuals in my circle of contacts that proclaim that they’re deleting their Facebook page to “escape” or “get away” from it. Of course, they all usually come back. But it does show that there is a desire by the user base to take back their time investments. They are beginning to view the time they spend on Facebook as a waste. And this is to be expected with anything that takes up as much time as Facebook.
So, where does this leave the company? I imagine that the growth it has seen over the last decade will level off in the next few years. Then, it will start a slow decline. Another competitor might come on the scene and do to Facebook what Facebook did to Myspace. However, I doubt we’ll have a social network that infiltrates our lives as fully as Facebook did. Any competitor will probably offer a less involved social experience and try to capitalize on the backlash that Facebook is experiencing.
Regardless of what happens, Mark Zuckerberg can look back on the last decade and take pride in knowing that he built something that fundamentally changed the history of the world. He connected people on a scale and in a way that no one had done before. Was all of it for good or for worse? I doubt we’ll know the answer to that question for at least another decade. But in the meantime, it cannot be understated just how amazing the story of Facebook has been.
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