Ever since the beginning of this course, several faults with Facebook have been highlighted. Many believe, rightly so, that privacy is a joke on Facebook. Some fear when their posts get seen by a random stranger or when they are “friended” by one. Others feel that Facebook makes it impossible to let bygones be bygones, and what goes up there stay forever. Others are simply stressed out by the amount of friends they have. This stems from a common theme: there are just way too many people on Facebook! What many consider to be Facebook’s greatest resource, its multitude of users, may prove to be its downfall.
Facebook having so many users is exactly why privacy is such a big issue on Facebook. Recently, Facebook has hit the billionth mark on number of active users. That is absolutely incredible, but it also means that it is that much harder for Facebook to regulate privacy. Imagine if you post a status update and set it to “Friends only.” Then, a friend came along and shared your status…publicly. Suddenly, the number of audience of your status jumped from the few hundred friends you have to all billion people using Facebook. Now supposed you want to take that status down, and you did. Sadly enough, that does not affect the status shared by your friend. This kind of effect is why many worry that Facebook makes it impossible to forget.
Suddenly, Facebook is not so appealing anymore. From being a safe heaven for college students, Facebook is now virtually open to everyone, and we have to live with that. This shift has not gone unnoticed, too. One of my favorite TV shows, How I Met Your Mother, had an episode a while ago with the following dialogues:
“Nobody goes on Facebook anymore.”
“You know who is on Facebook? Everybody’s parents!”
This brings me to my second point, which is the lost of exclusivity. One of the reasons that made Facebook so successful in the early days was the fact that it was exclusive, first to a few universities and then to university students. It is a paradox of the human mind: we all want something good, but once everyone else has the same thing, the object loses its appeal. Facebook, as of now, has virtually no cool factor left. Additionally, Facebook used to be a safe space, especially for teenagers. How would they feel now that the rest of the world is on Facebook, too?
All of these factors lead to Facebook’s competitors getting an advantage, as they, by definition, do not have as many users as Facebook. For instance, Twitter might be an appealing alternative for teenagers looking to escape their parents. Or, Google+ could be a safer place for people who want to share yet want to be left alone.
If Facebook wants to avoid such a thing from happening, it needs to find a way to handle its large profiles of users. For instance, Google+ is built from the ground up to be based on groups of friends. That way, even if Google+ one day has billions of users, nobody would feel overwhelmed as they are still interacting with just a select group of users. Facebook tried to implement a similar feature, but to a much less prominence. After all, doing so would go against Facebook’s own principle, for it wants us to have as many friends as we can. However, Facebook needs to find a sweet spot, otherwise its users may start flocking over to other social networks.