What was reportedly one of Facebook’s largest drawing points when it was first launched? It’s exclusivity. First limited to those with a harvard.edu email address, Facebook used to attract users by it’s “coolness” factor. However, as its popularity grew, and Facebook tried to capture more users, it gradually expanded its limitations until now, everyone can join. The userbase used to be limited to college students and teenagers, but now, with moms and dads now part of the network, Facebook began shifting from a place for informal teenage interaction to formal interactions, where job offers can even be made!
While this new development has definitely been great for Facebook’s dominance (and valuation, depending on who you ask), there is a general consensus that Facebook’s has become old, a little like the knowledgeable old grandpa who knows everything. He’s great for information, but you wouldn’t want to hang out with him for fun!
So save for the kids under 13 who can’t technically join Facebook because of COPPA, the social network is no longer the exclusive thing to be part of. Students are moving to newer social networks, such as Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr to form a better and more similar community. Even Gina said a few weeks ago that she realized people are moving away from Facebook and to Twitter because it has become “uncool.”
Facebook has realized this shortcoming and has taken some steps to undo it. The company’s mobile app was slow and unpopular, while Instagram was quickly gathering users to its exclusive photo sharing network. Facebook responded by buying it up, but it can’t do the same with every social network challenger.
While being so called “uncool” isn’t arguably bad for social networking or Facebook, it risks leaving Facebook stagnant. It leaves the social network open to more agile, nimble, “cooler” companies to steal market share. It’s similar to how startups are able to challenge large established companies–because they can maneuver faster, offer better support, and better surround the market. Facebook, once the “hacker” startup, is slowly becoming what it so desperatly tried to replace.
Unfortunately, this is not a problem that can be easily solved. Human dynamics trend towards circles of people that hang out with each other, not large communities that treat everyone equally in terms of friends. There’s a reason why teenage circles and adult circles don’t tend to mix, and no matter how hard people try to integrate them. The way I see it, there’s not real way for Facebook to prevent itself from becoming plain. Even if the company creates certain circles of exclusivity, it won’t mitigate the fact that everyone uses this thing called “Facebook.”