Will There Ever be Another Facebook?

30th Jul, 2010

Yesterday I wrote how Facebook achieved the enviable position of the worlds largest social media platform. Today I’m going to take a look into my crystal ball to try and predict how the future of social networks might play out.

One thing is for sure, it won’t be easy for a new competitor to take on the might of Facebook. Twitter pushed Facebook into using real time updates and Foursquare is making Facebook think local. In terms of immediate competitors Facebook stands in the enviable position of being able to identify new services, and be able to roll out a similar service to a larger audience quicker than the originator. Making it extremely difficult for a new player to enter the field.

So of the current competitors, or potential competitors out there where can the threat come from?


The most obvious threat is from Google. Earlier this week more details began to emerge about their third social network attempt called ‘Google Me’. Yep this is their third official attempt at a social network after purchasing Orkut, which was huge in Brazil but in few other places, and this years Google Buzz which I described my dislike of yesterday. The details emerging seem to point at a content based focus for the new service having signed up social game developers Playdom, Playfish and Zynga, creators of the popular Farmville game, to develop content for their new social network. Although Google are a giant in online search, they have an awful lot to learn about implementing a social network. I say that with some trepidation their past examples haven’t worked, but they do understand the mechanics behind it, take a look at these slides from a presentation by a Google researcher, it’s long, but very interesting.

In simple terms it has to be better than Facebook in order to compete, I mean why else would I or any user wish to move from Facebook to a brand new service? I’ll have to upload all my photos again and what if my network of friends don’t move, I’ll have to use two networks? So will I have to post updates to both networks now? I use multiple networks everyday anyway. But putting another network into the mix can be more hassle than its worth for the average user, so why bother if they are happy with the Facebook service? This not only applies to Google’s new effort but to any competing service.

In the short and medium term there is no competitor to Facebook.

Future Threats to Facebook

But there’s two areas that could provide a future threat to Facebook. First is the aforementioned social games, it will be interesting to see how that plays out, if you pardon the pun. Disney also entered the social games market this week. Social games are growing in popularity and can only get better in technical terms. Getting better means more depth, longer engagement and more opportunities for everyone – the creators, the players, the brands.

The second is Youtube. The video sharing site has an infinite amount of content on every topic imaginable from tutorials, to Gorrillas advertising chocolate, to the kind of clips shows like You’ve Been Framed made their name with. Remember, content is king, it’s why we visit the sites we do. Youtube has millions of hours of it. It’s synonymous with online video – after all we don’t upload to Facebook, we upload to Youtube. On Youtube we can discover new content, on Facebook we can only discover content our connections post. Youtube is a brand we know and understand just as much, if not more, than Facebook. Youtube also has its own games, usually brand related such as the Google Chrome Fastball game (video of it here), Samsung 3D (video here) and the recent A Team Google Earth game.

The rise and fall of Myspace was due to an iteration of the social network. It’s predecessor Friendster was about connecting via dating, Myspace was connecting via muic, Bebo and Facebook was connecting via social contacts. The next iteration could be connection via video, or games, facilitated by better technology.

Finally, another route it could go down would to be a collection of smaller niche social networks aimed at different audiences – strategy games, indie music, football etc. However, I don’t think they can work as standalone operations, but with a loose connection between them all so friends are still connected – which may still be using the Facebook platform.

So, do you think there will ever be another Facebook?