Facebook’s lackluster IPO has not exactly been kind to the Social Media giant. Pessimistic Cassandras have come out of the woodwork predicting the imminent demise of Zuckerberg’s brainchild. A few weeks back, Forbes issued a compelling analysis that predicts that Facebook and Google both will be gone inside of five years. Contributing writer Eric Jackson argues, “With each succeeding generation in the Internet, it seems the prior generation can’t quite wrap its head around the subtle changes that the next generation brings. Web 1.0 companies did a great job of aggregating data and presenting it in an easy to digest portal fashion. Google did a good job organizing the chaos of the Web better than AltaVista, Excite, Lycos and all the other search engines that preceded it. Amazon did a great job of centralizing the chaos of e-commerce shopping and putting all you needed in one place. When Web 2.0 companies began to emerge, they seemed to gravitate to the importance of social connections. MySpace built a network of people with a passion for music initially. Facebook got college students. LinkedIn got the white collar professionals…Yet, Web 1.0 companies never really seemed to be able to grasp the importance of building a social community and tapping into the backgrounds of those users.” This too may change, says Jackson. Bottom line: this Internet thing is constantly evolving and nothing is ever nailed down. True, enough.
Undoubtedly, even if Facebook and Google continue to reign supreme, they will only succeed at this if they continue to audit marketplace shifts and consumer behavior mutations. Google has the advantage that they are constantly tinkering around the edges, changing algorithms and “enhancing” the searcher experience. Facebook is perhaps more vulnerable in the sense that the emerging generation may value something that Gen Y has cast to the winds: privacy. What if, one day, people stop checking that box that says they have read the fine print and are willing to sign over all their information to be better geo-targeted? What if Mark Zuckerberg’s smirky, peach fuzz face starts to loom Orwellian. What if we, one day, realized that Big Brother is watching simply because we keep opening our drapes. Interestingly, Amazon and Netflix make their suggestions and recommendations without having us surrender all our little secrets. They don’t need to add a social network function to get to our innermost thoughts. They know what we buy. That’s the genius of e-commerce.
So is Facebook the next MySpace? Of course it is. The question is who is the next Facebook? Stay tuned. Web 4.0 is going to be a doozie.