Facebook has to be the biggest success-story business of the last ten years. It comes as something of an eyebrow-raiser, then, that six million US users have left the site in the last month, according to PCMag‘s Peter Pachal. However, Pachal also highlights that it’s not just the USA where users have been leaving. Canada has lost a significantly larger portion of its userbase in proportion to the USA, as 1.52 million users departed Facebook’s Canadian user-base, a loss of almost ten percent. This is in addition to other countries, as well, and even with almost 700 million global users, that’s a significant sum.
But is this just a random drop, or the sign of a public that are beginning to realise that “likes” and photo-tagging are no longer actually necessary? Twitter is a format I believe meets the need of a constantly evolving target market, as it’s inevitable that as technology progresses, those using the same hardware, software or websites will begin to perceive their current set-up as too slow, due to the ever-increasing need for digital immediacy.
Twitter provides immediacy better than Facebook does – one long feed of instant bursts of information, without the web-surfing experience. There’s no long profile page to go through, no personal information beyond a short bio section, and best of all, it has succeeded in bringing microblogging to an audience that previously never even considered a conventional blog. Even the conventional blog is being rapidly matched in appeal by Tumblr, a more social approach to the well-established method of simply commenting on someone’s work. Quotes within quotes, tweets within retweets.
Pachal suggests a number of reasons behind the Facebook exodus, and all of them are logical and well-argued. Seasonal changes, a “blip” in user statistics, Facebook’s recent disregard for user privacy, and of course, the elephant in Zuckerberg’s conference room – that Facebook’s time may indeed have come. It’s a social network, and although it’s become bigger than MySpace ever was, that doesn’t mean it can’t go the same way – struggling ever onward and reinventing itself as a platform for advertisers, musicians and the like in order to survive.
For Pachal the major downside to Facebook disappearing off the map is the removal of the 40 % increase in the web-surfing by Facebook users. This is true for most social networks – I certainly read a lot more web pages due to Twitter and an Android app by the name of ReadItLater (offline viewing of webpages as plain text-and-images, almost like a digital magazine article), and I wouldn’t do if I wasn’t tapped into the network.
This will hurt those not only marketing through Facebook, but relying on the world-of-mouth traffic it can generate. We are now able to draw more people towards a site than ever before, and that number is only going to rise. But if one of the main methods of communicating concepts, ideas, and most importantly, links to one another is removed, it damages a company’s ability to reach users, and damages, say, my ability to reach all of you. Facebook may be something of a privacy-invading social behemoth, but like everything else on the web people claim to dislike and yet can’t stop using, we’ll miss it if it goes.