Facebook: is the social hydra on the slide?

by Toby Manhire / 17 June, 2013
Bloated, exploited and commercialised, the social network is facing speculation its best days are over.
Have we hit Peak Facebook?

Recent research suggests the social-networking behemoth is losing millions of users in its biggest markets.

And panning Zuckerberg’s all-singing-all-dancing beast has become de rigueur. The latest example is Greg Dixon, who on Saturday announced to all his friends he was quitting Facebook by writing about it in the Herald’s Canvas magazine.

What’s going on? It could be a result of Facebook’s core function of– keeping up with friends – becoming corroded, according to Kevin Morris at online newspaper the Daily Dot.

“Say hello to the new Facebook,” he says. “You won’t find many people here. But you will find a lot of trash.”

Pressure to generate income has seen the freshly public-listed Facebook reshape the algorithm that controls the central thread of a Facebook page, the “news feed”, to privilege paid, promoted content over friends’ information, says Morris.

At the same time, “content spam” is soaring, as scammers work out how to infiltrate feeds by filching and circulating popular share-bait from other parts of the internet, winning “likes” and “shares”, and soon “sneaking in links to external sites, with the exact same stolen images, only this time slapped with advertisements”.

But the “bigger malady” for Facebook is its attempt to be all things to all people. With more than a billion on board, the site is plateauing as it “mutates into a social media hydra, a bit like Twitter, which dominates live events (Facebook even experimenting with hashtags) and a bit like Tumblr, which rules entertainment and fandom. The only problem? Those companies are already the very best at what they do, and to compete against them Facebook has to dilute the highly personal network of real relationships that makes it unique.”

Morris concludes:

This slow metamorphosis into a different type of social network is a big risk for Facebook. The strong bonds you have with friends are becoming overwhelmed by the weak ones you form with anonymous strangers.

That might be good for jacking short-term pageviews, but it's not the basis for a very healthy long-term relationship.


See also:

When Abraham Lincoln invented Facebook

The Facebook foetus-status row

Does Facebook make you lonely?
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