Monday, October 19, 2009

Facebook Circles the Drain (part ongoing)

Worldwide Ebb for Facebook: What's Next?

Five years from now, will Internet historians signpost the Facebook movie, due out in 2010, as the beginning of the site's end?

"West Wing" writer Aaron Sorkin is writing and producing the flick, called "The Social Network," about Facebook's birth. Jesse Eisenberg will play founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Justin Timberlake is cast as Sean Parker, the first company president.

But will the real star be . . . nostalgia? Will Facebook seem passe, like watching a movie about the invention of VHS? A dramatization of the site could turn it into a time capsule, with fossilized reenactments of the first friend poke.

If "The Social Network" isn't a harbinger of doom, then what is? Last month, the site gained its 300 millionth user and turned a profit for the first time in its six-year history. Can we just Facebook forever, friend requesting until we are officially connected to everyone? (What would that last friend acceptance look like? Osama bin Laden added you as a friend on Facebook. "Oh, all right.")
Ha, ha, ha, those WaPo writers are quite the card. Even funnier is that Big Media is just getting around to charting Facebook's demise, as several of us have been doing for some time (here, here, here). But the hand wringing over "what comes next" is almost comical.

The fact that the fastest-growing Facebook demographic is users over 55 -- that your latest friend request might be from your grandmother -- doesn't help the coolness factor.

"By definition, it's like bar hopping," says Kurt Cagle, an editor for O'Reilly Media, which publishes technology books. "You want to go to ones before they're popular. You don't want to go to ones that are too crowded. . . . No social media will have huge staying power."

Hip bellwethers within the herd eventually start looking for another place to drink.

And the easiest way to predict where the herd goes is sex. Someone sent me an email the other day about a business networking site that promised to be the "next Facebook." To which I responded, if the site doesn't promise the chance of getting laid in some reasonable, semi-autonomous, semi-private way, it will never blow up or be as big as Facebook.

It's that simple, really. We can attach all these pseudo-meaningful explanations why so many people have flocked to Facebook (friends, advertising, business, social movement, re-connecting, etc.), but at its heart is sex. If it doesn't promise the nookie in some possible form or fashion, you'll never herd 300 million people to one internet site, or anywhere else for that matter.

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