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Last weekend tech writers ruminated over wild reports that Facebook’s reign has ended. Not because the best friend of a Forbes writer’s son said the social network has gone cold, but because research proved it and even Facebook admitted losing teens in its annual report.
Former Facebook Product Director Blake Ross quipped about the writer story. He included it in a resignation letter on his profile page on February 22 as parting words to leave the company.
Ross has since retracted the letter and said the missive was not meant to be taken seriously; probably because it was posted accidentally, or maybe he feared people would misconstrue his jokes.
On Friday, The Verge‘s Ellis Hamburger fueled news about Facebook losing throngs of teenagers. He reckoned his 15-year-old cousin’s confirmation will prove his case. But regardless of his journalism, the media went fever pitch on his insight.
The New York Times‘ Nick Bilton quickly caught on and wrote another report. He wrote that Facebook holds content unless users pay a certain amount for its release. His burden of proof was more personal than Hamburger’s was: the sudden drop of Facebook shares and likes on his Sunday column. Bilton wrote that Facebook fooled him into believing it would play fair. And he reckoned that users will stop sharing after enduring the company’s “bait-and-switch.”
Facebook has denied his claims. While Bilton could be right about the changes to Facebook’s algorithm, or the placement of ads and paid content atop its news feed, the social network maintained these have minor effects. It said distributions are not reduced and Facebook ads have small impact on readership.
UK-based paper The Guardian also had something to share on Sunday, March 3. Writer John Naughton, of the paper’s The Observer, basically wrote that a thriving tech company has a short time frame to indulge in success before it spirals downwards. The article started with an insight about Google’s future, but unsurprisingly led to Facebook, covering the topic halfway onwards. He cited this research about Friendster, in which researchers used two factors to predict the death of a social network: the average number of friends and if the difficulty of using the social network surpasses its perceived benefits. But so far the increase in Facebook ads and less privacy outweigh its perceived benefits.
“Facebook bashing” usually happens when the social network releases new features or applies changes to its privacy settings or terms of service. The reports during the weekend probably fed on and supported each other’s story.
A report late last year likely started all of this. Branch (formerly Roundtable) co-founder and CEO Josh Miller wrote on December 29 about his 15-year-old sister’s strong liking for Snapchat compared to Facebook. She told him that Snapchat is the next Instagram and that more of her peers prefer to use it than Facebook.
But should we all deduce that teenagers, particularly the 15-year-olds, are experts who can predict the future? Most of us will find this a no-brainer, but lots of research firms and researchers actually ruminate on this thought, especially when it comes to Facebook usage.
When will Facebook be the next Friendster or MySpace? That we do not know. The proof? The New York Times was expecting a “Facebook Exodus,” and that was three years ago. Many so-called experts have made their own predictions.
Time will come when these naysayers will say that they told us so. That they expected Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other tech companies to crumble because nothing lasts forever. But who can say exactly when that will happen?
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