Is it time for Facebook to give up the social network crown?

Facebook might just be getting a little bit too big for its boots. As it starts to climb from the 1 billion user mark, with its sights set on 2 billion in as little as two years, it’s starting to struggle with processing its data. And this might mean it needs to relinquish its place at the top of the social network food chain.

The CTO at Huffington Post, John Pavley, believes that Facebooks growth is going to seriously impact the quality of the social network. Like duh, right? Well his argument isn’t just about the fact that we now have ads all over the place, not to mention little glitches here and there that drive us insane. No, in fact, his argument is a lot more fundamental than that: when you have too many users, you don’t have the capacity to actually gain useful value from new users coming in. He argues that it’s the Law of Diminishing Returns in action. Facebook is struggling to process the data for 1 billion users: how will it ever afford to manage 2 billion?

Pavley does have some suggestions on how Mark Zuckerberg and his team could salvage Facebook from the furnace it’s building for itself. He suggests they take on a ‘freemium’ model – offer an ad-free network to monthly subscribers, much like Apple’s or Spotify’s models. Another suggestion is to welcome the open source community with open arms – get worldwide geek help on, you know, the geeky stuff. Which, you know, they’re doing really badly at the moment.

But the suggestion I think that has the most promise is the “birth control” option:

Birth Control! News flash to the other six billion people in the world: Facebook is closed! Go join Google Plus and be Larry and Sergey’s problem. Google’s healthy search business can foot the bill for the giant social network that Facebook can’t. Facebook doesn’t need to be the only social network and it might die if it gets much bigger. Instead Facebook should focus on improving the number and quality of the social connections between its high value users.

Facebook has had its day in the sun, its frolic in the fields of the world wide web. It’s time to settle down, back in the hometown and start polishing its jewels. The truth is there: Google+ is the social network of the future because it has access to he vast resources of Google, which Facebook simply couldn’t hope to rival. Google doesn’t need to pollute your feed with ads, because it’s already making all the money it needs from its search business. It can “foot the bill” for being the king of the social network castle.

But that doesn’t mean Facebook needs to become irrelevant. Twitter, Pintrest, LinkedIn aren’t irrelevant. Why? They give you a function, or service, a niche that the ‘giant’ network doesn’t. Twitter creates an immediate, right-this-millisecond source for news. Things appear on Twitter before anywhere else. You don’t scroll through your Twitter feed – you watch it. Pintrest is all about the visual – it’s the virtual photo wall, unpolluted by ugly words. It’s the graphic designers dream. LinkedIn is, obviously, in the niche of the professional, rather than randomly social, network.

No, what Mr. Zuckerburg needs to think about is what he created this network for in the first place. Facebook, out of necessity, has become all about the money and less about the networking. Facebook should take five steps back and return to the days when you needed a university email address to join. Make Facebook THE University network. Make it all about the students – and then you can create a service that is designed specifically, and perfectly, for students. Leave the ‘giant’ network to Google.

Facebook could reshape and become ideal for planning massive house parties, for facilitating inter-University rivalry, for last-minute online cramming sessions before the exam, for downloading the lectures you missed because you were sick (hungover).

Leave the rest of the world to adopt Google Plus. Which, if you really play with it, actually has features that facilitate social networking across a broad spectrum in a much more intelligent fashion than Facebook anyway. All it needs is for people to engage in it.

If Facebook focuses down on this student activity, it could form partnerships (and gain sponsorship) with Universities to integrate into their actual learning systems. Most Universities already have some sort of “student portal” system, in order to disseminate information about classes electronically. Why not merge this into Facebook?

Facebook could become the ultimate yearbook for the University experience. When you graduate, maybe Facebook could offer you a compilation of the highlights of your timeline while at University to be published into a book that you pay for and have shipped to your doorstep.

Associate with travel sites geared towards students for advertising revenue. Offer students cheap travel deals. Cheap textbook deals. Cheap food and drink deals. The possibilities, to me, seem endless if they renounce the crown and scale back, focusing on creating a smaller and truly valuable product, rather than an enormous and mediocre product.

What do you think? Is it all just a bunch if hot air and will Facebook simply rise to the challenge of 2 billion users? Or should it cut its losses before it crashes and burns?

[Image Credit]

Note: (If you didn’t quite get this already…) This article contains the opinions of the author (whose name is Daljeet…as indicated below) and not the entire GaS website. Just to be clear.





16 Responses to Is it time for Facebook to give up the social network crown?

  1. Yet another "look at me, predicting the doom of the social networking behemoth THE CRACKS ARE BEGINNING TO SHOW! THE SKY IS FALLING THE SKY IS FALLING!" article.

    and "Like duh, right?" really?… REALLY?!.

  2. "What do you think?"

    I think that Daljeet and John Pavley want more than the 5 other people on Google+ in their "circles."

    Is massive amounts of data coming into Facebook? Yes. Will they be able to handle it? Yes. BigData is the buzzword of the year and companies are innovating tech each day that will make the intense data processing and analytics needed to continue to build companies like Facebook possible.

  3. I'd say that this article spells out a great plan for facebook to follow, if it wants to go out of business. Seriously, their revenue is based almost completely on ads and ad impressions, and if they start haemorrhaging users their revenue will go down. That will drive their stock price even lower, and we need to keep in mind that facebook is a public company now.

    Really, they need to be figuring out ways of going outside their current revenue stream, rather than closing out what is probably the bigger pool of users – has anyone done an analysis on university versus non-university users of facebook? I'd be surprised if the former is much bigger than the latter these days.

    Also, with the capacity of Google versus facebook, I suspect that facebook has substantially more capacity pegged to it than Google+ does at this point in time. Does the author believe that Google has 'dead server space' simply waiting for Google+ to expand into, or do they believe that Google would *dare* cannibalise other parts of their business (ESPECIALLY search) to feed Google+? If so, take a hard look at it again. Facebook already *has* invested in the 'vast resources' needed to run a billion-person plus social network. The proof is there to be seen – just log in to facebook.com. It works (mostly), and so the resources MUST already be there.

    Future resources is a different game completely, and I'd be hesitant to say that Google would be willing to outbuy facebook on enough of a scale to make a difference. Both of them are giant technology companies with massive data centres and increasing outlay on servers and technology. Google, however, puts most of its money into its core moneyspinner – search. Facebook puts most of its money into… social networking. In that sense, facebook must be more invested in social-networking related hardware than Google.

    "Leave the giant network to Google". Google+ currently has ~400 million users, 25% of which are active regularly. Facebook, as has been touted, has more than a billion. I'd say it's clear who has the 'giant' network already. There's no way facebook should just throw that away – nor will they.

    -Andiyar

    • I think there are many points there that we'd have to agree to disagree upon. I obviously realise that Facebook is the giant social network at the moment – but the point is, is there a point where it becomes TOO big to handle? And if it does, and it crashes completely, then the stocks drop to nothing.

      Although it works (mostly) as you say, Facebook IS actually finding it difficult to handle all the information they're getting. As the above poster says – BigData is the buzzword of the year, but will the innovations keep up with Facebook's growth?

      Google already has the infrastructure to handle the big data – so if the world did shift over to them, they would probably be able to generate a more stable social network.

      Remember that Google also runs YouTube and Gmail. It puts them in a pretty good place to run a good social network. But like most people will agree – it doesn't have the engagement that Facebook does. At the moment. I'm talking future here – and to me it's looking like Facebook's current path simply isn't as sustainable as Google's is.

  4. Who wrote this? Ridiculous.

    I like the Google+ interface and software better than Facebook, but I have tried to use Google+ and there is no one there. Compared to prob %75 of ppl I know being on FB. I work in online marketing too, and the only ppl I know on plus are my work colleagues.

    I think plus will overtake FB eventually in users, just due to the Google Suite effect. Gmail is by far the best email I have used, and it now comes with a plus account connected to it. But FB is positioning itself nicely to be place to share photos and videos. Plus is more about the conversation, kind of like the conversations had on twitter.

    But suggesting Facebook go after colleges is ridiculous. There is no way they have more 'college' users than regular users. The shareholders own it now, and they want there stock to go up, so scaling back is not even an option. And that takes there end-user base from 6 billion people, down to what maybe 300-400 million people in world that are in college, maybe 3 billion people with a college degree. LOL, ludicrous.

    • See my point isn't that there are more college users – it's that they'll generate a better product if they limit their user base.

      The point made by Pavley is that increasing the number of users doesn't necessarily mean good things for Facebook – and it may even mean BAD things. If they scale it back, it would make more sense in the long term is what I'm saying. Yes, it will mean less revenue now, but it would also mean a longer lifetime.

      But as you say, the shareholders own it now. And all they see is the money they're getting into their pockets now.

  5. Is there a contract that ties GAS and Google+? cause every time you talk about facebook you have to bring Google+ in and present it as the future of social media. And every time someone asks for an article that compares FB and G+ they never get an answer!

    • Lol, well, ask Daljeet, he's the one that's writing about it, not me :) (There's like 3-4 people writing on this site)

      • Wow, you don't even back up your own writers. Well that's just what I needed to take this site off my feed. Good luck.

        • Well, I let people have their opinions if it can spark a conversation… there’s nothing wrong about that.

          Maybe I should ask contributors to endorse what they write a little more, just so that readers understand that they’re (the writers) entitled to their individual opinions.

    • No need to be rude to our administrator now Vicky – you can't expect him to share the same views as all his contributors. If he censored his contributors opinions, that would make him a dictator. Which he is not. This is MY opinion, not the opinion of Geeks Are Sexy. That much should pretty much be clear.

      I would like to do a comparison article between Facebook and Google+ but these things take time, and I have rent to pay. Nevertheless, I assure you it's in the works! I truly do believe that Google+ is the future of social media – not because of what it is NOW, but because of what it could (and I believe WILL) be in the future.

      • I didn't find it clear that it was your opinion and not that of [GAS].

        I think you would be best sticking to Editorial Columns perhaps where Opinion is Warranted as you have clearly stated above that it is your opinion and what you believe…. how much "Fact" is in this article.

        This is a great site, but seriously, it comes across that this particular contributor is taking some cash from Google under the table…. or is that where the "I have Rent to pay" comment comes into play.

        Why can't Facebook adapt, evolve to meet its client base. Zuckerberg is clearly a can-do man if he puts his mind to it… what is stopping him. There are investors in Facebook such as Microsoft that have as vested interest to see it succeed also.

        • If you read the article properly, it's pretty clear that what I'm writing here is an opinion – these are my suggestions of where I think Facebook should go. The title is "Is it time for Facebook to give up the social network crown?" – it's a discussion piece.

          I find it sad that you think that anyone who has an opinion that supports a particular company immediately means that they're taking cash under the table from that company. Do you also believe that every Apple fanboy out there is secretly being funded by Apple?

          It would be highly unethical of me (not to mention illegal) to be accepting payment in the form of cash or 'gifts' to advertise something without making that clear in the article. As much as you might disagree with my opinion…it is my opinion!

  6. t will be interesting to see how facebook goes from a desktop company to a real mobile company…More important how they are going to monetize this audience….