Knowing that Google+ would use “circles” to segment actual social networks (“Family,” “Friends,” “People I Secretly Despise,” etc.), Facebook launched Groups and Lists, which hardly anyone used. These features were rolled out well after people had already friended most of their social networks -- nobody wanted to go back and re-categorize everybody.
So this month, Facebook is rolling out Smart Lists, which uses algorithms to slot people into “Close Friends” and “Acquaintances.” But this is really not much more than another way to interact with Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which censors your feeds based on who Facebook thinks matters and who they think doesn’t matter.
This week, Facebook rolled out a “Subscribe” button, which copies Google+’s core feature of enabling “Public” posts.
Google+ rolled out from Day 1 of its private beta a shockingly cool service called Hangouts, which is way better and way cheaper than Skype.
A week later, Facebook unveiled Skype integration. Hardly anyone uses Skype on Facebook. Why would they?
The Skype integration appears to be the other part of Facebook’s strategy: Throw everything in there. Facebook is expected to announce a new music service next week, which will enable users to stream music from partner companies.
All this copying of Google+ and integration with third-party services smacks of desperation and lack of vision. All these scattershot changes erode Facebook’s identity, and make the service even more complex and confusing.
Facebook appears to be very worried about its own decline. And it should be. While Facebook is still gaining members, a careful look at its growth reveals that the leading countries -- the ones that were first to jump on the Facebook bandwagon -- are actually abandoning Facebook.
The most recent numbers show that during the month of May, Facebook lost 6 million US users, 1.5 million Canadian users and hundreds of thousands of users in the UK, Norway and Russia.
I don’t think Facebook will die. In fact, I think the company will continue to survive indefinitely. I think Facebook will become the new Yahoo. Here’s what I mean.
It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Yahoo was the hottest company in Silicon Valley. Everybody knew, or thought they knew, that information portals would yield all the power and influence online.
As millions and billions of people got Internet connections, they would all need directories to help them find resources online, as well as search. Yahoo leveraged its traffic to drive usage of e-mail and a gazillion other services.
But the portal era faded away, replaced by the search era. Google rose to dominance to become the hottest Internet company in Silicon Valley.
But you know what? Yahoo is still a going concern. They still have a lot of traffic and bring in a lot of revenue.
But as a driving force, as an influential driver of news and information, Yahoo is out in the woods. Once the darling of Silicon Valley, Yahoo has become this... thing -- a service nobody can describe, a kind of machine that acquires companies, then closes them down.
Yahoo has no vision. It has no purpose. It’s dispensable. Yahoo continues like a zombie, animated by the life it once had.
And that’s what Facebook is becoming. Yes, they’ll continue to have users. And yes, they’ll continue to make money. But Facebook is looking increasingly like a one-trick pony that doesn’t have the vision to reinvent itself for the post-Facebook era.
Facebook is the new Yahoo.