Nobody has written more positive stuff about Facebook over the last 4-5 years. I was so overwhelmingly positive about the company that plenty of people suggested on a regular basis that I was a fan boy or that I owned stock in the company. Since 2006 I thought that Facebook was the best run company and most interesting change in technology we have seen in generations. It inspired revolutions across the Middle East, attracted well over a billion users and provided some of the most targeted marketing solutions in the history of the world. Over the last 2-3 months my mind has been changing though and today I've decided to de-activate my account on Facebook. Here is why....
The Reasons I'm Leaving
I'm not really worried about privacy. Facebook have always pushed the boundaries on that front and it doesn't overly bother me. When you look at what the NSA are doing and realise that they are slicing the pipe way back down the line to grab all your data you just need to realise that everything you do online is monitored these days. There are a number of reasons I'm leaving and they include...
- The newsfeed has just gotten boring
- Facebook has moved from being a great social network to a marketing platform
- The people I interact with there are no longer relevant to me.
- I waste a huge amount of time on Facebook
The main one is the 4th one. Facebook have teams of 100s of engineers dedicated to keeping me "sticky" on the site. That little red alert pulls me in 40/50 times per day but the content and things I am doing there are boring. I go to interact with friends but end up on Buzzfeed, Business Insider or doing other things that waste my time.
The Worries I Have Leaving
Mainly not having access to Tinder. All messing aside it is the connected apps that are the biggest worry. I don't think people realise how many apps and services use Facebook as a login mechanism and to improve their services by adding a social layer. Things like Netflix and Spotify rely heavily on Facebook. Facebook has for the last few years been my identity online and that is about to change. I expect some pain but I also happen to like a couple of James Blunt songs and I don't know if I want all my "friends" knowing that. Another big worry is the promotional side of Facebook and the traffic that it sends websites and products I promote. The bottom line is that with a billion people there I'll still have to use the site to promote my blog and have share buttons on the various webpages. Facebook is still the number 1 traffic driver on many sites I manage so I'd be stupid to ditch it on a professional level. This is the one difference that Facebook have over Myspace and Bebo in that their tentacles spread deep into the web as we know it.
Failed Products Since IPO
I don't know enough about the company internally but their products have been suffering since the IPO. Granted they've had to deal with the huge shift to mobile that consumers have been making over the past 2 years but there have been no home runs of product launches. What I think we have seen happen is Mark Zuckberg had control over so many areas but as the company has grown his role has changed to one of a CEO. He doesn't wrote code and none of the people doing it are able to come up with the sort of stuff that the likes of himself and Dave Morin used to launch. Hashtags, Facebook home, Graph search and wild bets like Poke have all been failures.
Forget About Snapchat As The Competition
People seem to be obsessed with Snapchat at the moment as being some sort of direct replacement. I don't see it like that. My own web use and that of my friends is split between Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In general what we are seeing is users moving the "back channels" of the internet. People don't want to share with people outside their social networks. The amount of LOLs I get on Snapchat and Whatsapp daily are increasing and making me share social content in a completely new way.
How Quick Will The Company Die?
It may not die. They might be quick enough to flip the experience and keep people on the site but you only have to look at Myspace and Bebo to see that a social network can empty overnight. The kids are already gone or in the process of leaving. In the past couple of months anecdotaly I've seen my friends in their 20s leaving as well. I know 4 people who have de-activated their account and plenty more who are thinking about it as well. Facebook will be able to fudge the numbers and keep revenue growing for the next 12 months. There is an outside chance that Facebook could die as quickly as some of the apps that it restricts access to the newsfeed from. I doubt it but the fall could be just as fast as the rise
Facebook will push further towards ads. They will defo launch an ad network and push deeper into getting more data out of people. I genuinely believe Mark Zuckerberg is a once in a lifetime entrepreneur. Steve Jobs like. I'd love to see him go again and I think he might. He certainly has the cash to. Bottom line is he is a hacker and one of the best around. He is currently spending his time pandering to Bankers and investors and that is not a good use of his time. He still shows strategic brilliance with things like the Instagram acquisition and he would yet get a hail mary by acquiring Snapchat or better still paying huge bucks for Whatsapp. They've had a good run and plenty of people got rich in the last few years but I'm afraid the game is nearly up.
If you don't believe me and think I have it wrong read this....Why would the CEO and investors be cashing out now? I have a feeling their stats are telling them to get some cash off the table.