It is estimated that there are 175 million active users on Facebook. More than 3 billion minutes are spent on Facebook everyday, worldwide. More than 850 million photos are uploaded to the site each month. I don’t know a single person that is not on Facebook. Even my mother is on Facebook, and updates her status with glee at least once a day. It’s a phenomenon. You don’t even have to explain what Facebook is to anyone, like you have to explain Twitter (“but… what exactly is the point of Twitter?!”)
My grandmother is aware of Facebook, it nestles in her vocabulary nicely, and she even knows enough to ask her granddaughters not to tag any unflattering photos of her. She doesn’t even own a PC.
This is all very well, connecting the entire world through wall posts, photo comments, and status updates, making it more of a ‘global community’ than ever. But Facebook is the big shot for now. What happens when the public decides to hop onto the next bandwagon? Is “Twittering” going to a part of everyday language in the next few years?
Today, almost 6 months after I decided to update my profile to this I decided, for some unknown reason, to log into MySpace. Everyone remembers MySpace, yes? I’d hazard a guess that yes, you do, but more in a “oh yeah, MySpace!” rather than a “Yup, updated my profile this morning in fact”, unless you are a musician. MySpace was the biggest thing on the web right up until April last year, when Facebook began to steal its thunder. I signed up in 2004, a few months after signing up for Hi5(membership on that didn’t last long, believe me) and it quickly became my most visited page, even becoming my homepage at one point. I thought it was brilliant – you had your own little webpage, you could make new “friends”, leave them messages, write your own blogs, upload photos, write ‘bulletins’, everything. It became huge in 2005, when, much like Facebook now, it was known by almost everybody out there.
But now… not so much. As MySpace was plagued with bad press, fake profiles, spam comments, backlash from users as they blocked YouTube videos from being embedded (preferring their users to use their own MySpace videos service), Facebook was gaining momentum. It allowed anyone who wanted to, to sign up (whereas before that it was exclusively a network of college students) and soon it became the new ‘in’ social networking site. I’m sure that i’m not the only one who has abandoned MySpace, and jumped ship to Facebook.
It’s understandable, then, that MySpace started to bring in new features to try and bring back some of their users. Firstly they introduced profile ‘applications’, mimicking Facebook’s own applications. However, as this was always the most annoying part of Facebook, that seemingly only people who don’t quite grasp social ettiquete use (do they really think that inviting people to become vampires or ninjas with them is going to win them any friends?). So MySpace brought in status updates and photo tagging, which look ever so slightly similar to the content over at Facebook. They noticed that one of the main things that people seemed to like about Facebook was how simple it was to update your proile. For some, messing around with HTML on MySpace to get the desired look was too much hassle. And so MySpace brought in ‘MySpace 2.0′, designed to give users a way to instantly update their profiles without having to have a basic grasp of HTML.
Facebook has been going strong for more than a year now. At the start of my post I mentioned Facebook’s vital staistics. There is no real reason that its userbase won’t keep rising, especially now that people aged 30+ are starting to understand that Facebook isn’t just for the younger generation, and that it can, most of the time, work a lot better than things such as Friends Reunited, which traditinally had the biggest share of users in that age range. There is no real competitor to Facebook now that the hype around MySpace seems to be dying down.
Why, then, have Facebook decided to give its site a makeover, to look like a clone of the newest media darling, Twitter? There is now more of an emphasis on status updates, less of an emphasis on what people are doing (i.e. joining groups, being tagged in photos, for example, both of which have been relagated to a small section to the right of the page). Which is nice, but the reason why people like Facebook is because they can see what their friends are up to, not only through them updating their statuses saying how they feel, or what they’re doing, but seeing how people interact with each other, seeing their newest photos, funny groups to join or games that are popular with your friends.
Twitter is great, don’t get me wrong. I do love Twitter. But then I also love Facebook, and I love them for different reasons. It feels as if Facebook think that as Twitter is the newsest ‘it’ thing, all of their users are going to jump ship and twitter away there. But thats where I think they are wrong. None of my friends have Twitter. None of my friends even want Twitter, they think it’s pointless. Twitter seems to be something for media-types, for educated journalists, writers, businesspeople and celebrities. And it doesn’t seem to translate well to those who are not interested in the media. So, Facebook essentially taking steps towards becoming a clone of Twitter won’t be a good thing. If anything, it will alienate a lot of people, and thats the last thing Facebook needs. After all, it doesn’t want to end up going the same way as MySpace…