The Beginning of the End for Facebook?

Ben Bajarin is the director of consumer-technology analysis and research at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley.

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My friends at comScore shared with me that, in September 2011 in the U.S., the average number of minutes that each Facebook user spent on the site was 410. Last year, that month’s average was 287, signaling a 42% increase. Also during September 2011, Facebook commanded 14.7% of total U.S. consumer Internet-usage minutes, the most of any website. Given that the site is still on a growth trend, how could I be crazy enough to ask if it’s the beginning of the end for Facebook? Let’s explore.

One of the things you learn living in Silicon Valley your whole life is how fast things can change. Big companies can come and go in extremely short periods of time. Yahoo! was once what Google is today. MySpace was once what Facebook is today. Innovation happens everywhere and waits for no company.

(PHOTOS: Life Inside Facebook’s Headquarters)

Rightly or wrongly, what’s caused me to start to evaluate whether Facebook has peaked is my own declining use of the site. I find myself using it less and less each day, sometimes going days or weeks without checking it. Interestingly, I have also observed that many in my network are posting less often. What may be happening is that consumers are experiencing Facebook fatigue.

I recently polled almost 500 high school students in San Jose, and shockingly, not all of them were on Facebook. But perhaps not surprisingly, nearly all who were said they were basically bored with the site and had been using it significantly less.

Now, depending on how heavy of a technology user you are, you may find the idea of Facebook on its way out surprising or not surprising. For example, many of the young people I surveyed conveyed that they were ready for something else. Call me crazy, but I firmly believe that Facebook has either peaked or is on the cusp of peaking.

All of my thinking on this comes, of course, on the heels of news reports about Facebook’s preparing its IPO. But it also comes at a time when Facebook has to overcome negative press due to a settlement with the FTC over privacy issues. Those events are on opposite sides of the spectrum and could potentially be used to argue for or against Facebook’s long-term staying power.

(PHOTOS: Mark Zuckerberg Person of the Year 2010)

If you’ve been using Facebook for more than a few years and think back to how you used it in the beginning, you’ll most likely remember using it quite frequently for long periods of time. Much of this initial time spent connecting with friends and family or rediscovering old friends was what made Facebook great. Even many who are new to Facebook may still find themselves using it heavily by doing some of those same things.

But at some point, Facebook usage becomes more about profile management and quick checkups than heavy usage. Now, although this isn’t bad, it’s not what Facebook wants as it looks to maintain a large, healthy business.

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1 comments
debrun63
debrun63

I was addicted to FB (spent hours every day on it) but just woke up one morning and said enough is enough.  A lot of people in my network either don't log on for days or spend their time playing poker or farmville.  The fact that they have a billion users does not mean that they have a billion users who are actually active.  I am glad FB has gone out of my life and I will never sign up to it again.  So in my humble opinion FB is in decline!