The Facebook Dilemma

Tom Merritt of TWiT.tv’s Tech News Today wrote an excellent article, “Why Facebook IPO is a disaster for Facebook’s future.” . I urge you to read it as it makes a lot of good points.

I was curious about the IPO and how it would end up doing. I mean, Google went public and they’re doing pretty well and LinkedIn is holding pretty steady since it went public. Why is Facebook failing in the market?

Google has products and a future that can be seen from afar. They are innovative and imaginative and are constantly finding new ways to surprise people. Google glasses have captured people’s interest, the Android operating system is selling phones and their search and social products just keep getting better and better.

LinkedIn, the professional networking site, has something going for it. There aren’t many networks that concentrate solely on the professions of its users. LinkedIn offers people the opportunity to connect with potential employers, employees or business contacts. It provides a beneficial service to users and investors alike and both groups can see the value in that.

What does Facebook offer? A social space where people can connect with other people. As Tom Merritt infers in his article, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before online. Unlike LinkedIn, where user data is beneficial to the entire community, user data on Facebook pretty much only has potential benefit to advertisers. The same cannot be said of LinkedIn, because the benefit of finding a job or gaining new clients or business contacts is a pretty satisfying reward for a user’s data. Facebook offers targeted advertising and if users aren’t being honest about themselves then that data is as good as worthless. 

What does the future of social networking hold? I couldn’t say and I’m pretty sure nobody else could either. One prediction that I can make is that in five years we will look at Facebook the way we see MySpace today. It will be a waning community that has been thrown over for a new, better, shinier community. I do hope the next one will be a shell for data that we control. In other words, we hold our data on a server that we control and we decide what data to show and where to show it. When a network no longer suits us or does something to lose our trust, we delete a link and our data is no longer visible to that service.

Social networking is still trying to find its legs. Facebook and Google+ are feeling their way in the dark as are their users. We don’t really know what we want yet. We see what we don’t want when it happens and then we don’t want it anymore. Networks are adapting to the whims of their users and learning from the mistakes of the others. It took a couple years before Facebook offered data migration, but it was a debut feature of Google+. Google+ offers hangouts and so Facebook offered Skype integration. It like the blind leading the blind.