Losing Face: Is Facebook the next AOL?

The glass is half-full, yes that is my motto. Optimism is my middle name. That is until I talk to my significant other about Facebook. Oh and then all hell breaks loose and I sit patiently listening to all his rants about how Facebook is the next AOL. What will be the rage, next year? he asks. I shrug and say, “Does it matter?” He says,”Yeah but look at what happened with MySpace” he’ll retort. Not having much to say in response I stay quiet, but start to think about how the web has changed over my adulthood. There was no web as we know it when I was young (yeah yeah I know, I walked both ways to school, barefoot, in the snow and I was grateful)

There is something new and social every day. Our entrepreneurs (especially the highly technical ones) are holding hackathons and spitting out a new app virtually every weekend. Applications so you can shop with your friends online (Plurchase) or tell people where you are (Four Square) built with smart phones and mobility in mind.

In my 20’s and 30’s it took months to launch a new company. Now, it takes a weekend. Business plan? pshaw. Social network has become what the content management system(cms) became to web design. You don’t build a site without cms capabilities. You don’t build a site without social networking aspects. It’s expected.

So how does this relate to Facebook and AOL? Our experience in this digital world is much less solid than it was when our options were limited. It takes a heartbeat to encourage migration to a brand spanking new technology. No barrier to entry for anyone, so we can explore all the options. The problem is that without that barrier there is no loyalty, no investment in one application over another. I can setup a network over at Ning and tell all my friends to post and engage over there. What do I need Facebook for other than the mini-games? Alternatively I can setup a PLIGG site and do exactly the same type of thing that Facebook does, without the games. That isn’t the draw though is it? The ability to connect through various features on a site is not what draws us but the access to so many other people that are utilizing the same site. How flawed is this though? I’ve received notes from people telling me I’m triple posting because I make a comment on Twitter and it goes to both FriendFeed and Facebook (as well as Twitter). They follow me on all so they get to hear what I have to say in stereo. I enjoy Facebook because my adult children and friends are on there. Would I move to another social network if they did? Yep. Would I miss Facebook? probably not. I don’t care about the application I’m using as much as the people who are in the network. I’ve had a LinkedIn account since Beta and use it solely for business connections. There have been multiple “business network” sites that have come and gone since. Most of my connections are on LinkedIn no matter where else they are connected (Plaxo for example).

So what draws us to Facebook? Mass appeal. Johnny and Susie are on Facebook as are all my friends in my Book of the Month Club and my mom and my kids and so on and so on. That’s where the biggest similarity lies between Facebook & AOL, the mass appeal. Millions of people are on Facebook, millions of people were using AOL. It’s easy, it’s standard, it’s no fuss. Does that mean it’ll win over any other up-and-coming potential Facebook buster? If there is no barrier to entry, then no, Facebook could be the next AOL.

It’s eerie, I remember the sound of dial-up as I connected to AOL to check my email. The excitement of logging into a chat room on CompuServ to talk to my “friends” and finding myself there for hours and hours (sleep, who needs sleep?) and racking up my dial-up bill! We logged on, downloaded our email and read it offline (so we didn’t run up extra charges). Life online was limited by our budget. We couldn’t run down to the local coffee shop and access the web with our laptop.

Our lives on the web are changing at a breakneck speed. Where we spend our time online is getting more and more important as we are presented with more options. Facebook may be here today, but I’ll guarantee you it’ll be gone day after tomorrow. I’d love to see Facebook prove me wrong.

That’s not to say I don’t love Facebook myself, but I just don’t see how it’s going to hold up and remain ever vigilant once the honeymoon is over.

Interesting articles about Facebook and AOL.

Will Facebook be the next AOL?

The Problem with Facebook for Marketers – nice article on being cautious with the company page on Facebook.

Is Facebook todays Internet

What do you think? How is Facebook going to keep us all in the future?

  • Interesting questions you are raising. Everything is so fleeting now, the next new thing is just over the horizon. When it comes a veritable media explosion will announce it to every individual on the planet–who will then rush to try it out.