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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I’m not entirely sure why a consumer’s usage of Facebook starts out heavy, then gradually declines, but I believe it has something to do with the size of that person’s network of friends, brands, family members, colleagues, acquaintances and brand fan pages. As those numbers go up, Facebook becomes overloaded with information and cluttered with content that’s not that interesting or relevant.

And some recent experiences with apps that are taking a different approach to social networking are slowly convincing me that Facebook may be in trouble. One of those is called Path. Path has been around for about a year but has just received a major update that makes it much more compelling.

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The basic concept of Path is that it limits the amount of people you can be friends with, which means you connect only with those you’re genuinely close to. This, in my opinion, is quite compelling, because it’s a case of less being more. The app is designed around the social sharing of life with those closest to you, and the experience delivers on that promise.

Even something like Xbox Live, a social network for Xbox gamers, gives a preview of how people may spend their time engaging with others of like-minded interests.

Pinterest, something I’m hearing is taking quite a bit of time away from Facebook, is another site that’s growing extremely fast. It brings a completely unique approach to interests by wrapping a social experience around it.

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What these services all have in common is a focus on something specific, rather than an attempt to try to please everyone. That’s something that may ultimately be disruptive for Facebook. In fact, I suspect that just the idea of managing hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends alone is off-putting to many. So services like the ones I have mentioned may be more appealing and, in turn, draw people away from Facebook.

When I survey the landscape and look at trends, which is one of my jobs as an industry analyst, I see declining usage of Facebook as a significant trend. Taking that into context and combining it with the unique new offerings coming up daily, you can see why I’m asking the question. Facebook may have run its course.

Of course, it’s too early to tell, and Facebook can still innovate and, in essence, disrupt itself. But the social networks that are more focused may turn out to be more interesting to consumers in the future.

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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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