Will Young People Still Care About Facebook in 2013?

Posted on February 22, 2008

There are reports today that the traffic to Facebook might be falling or plateauing in the U.S. and/or in the UK. CNET notes that it was never going to be possible for Facebook to sustain its explosive 200,000 new members per day growth forever.

It's inevitable that the explosive expansion that Facebook experienced in 2007 can't possibly go on forever. And since no hot new destination has popped up to potentially suck away Facebook traffic, the obvious conclusion is to blame it on social-networking fatigue. Facebook, one could say, is a trend and users have simply grown tired of it.

The argument makes sense. For many there was an initial novelty to keeping in touch with faraway friends and classmates, wasting time at the office with games and other developer-created applications, and voyeuristically sifting through online photo albums all on a single destination site. Me, I've grown tired of the Scrabulous gaming application on Facebook--it's way more fun to play word games in person.

But an apparent leveling in traffic doesn't equal mass account deletion. "Coolness factor" always fades; now it's up to Facebook to prove it can stay relevant and useful in its post-expansion era. Remember when instant-messaging client adoption was soaring and people were IMing each other just for the heck of it? We're all still IMing, but it's no longer a novelty, it's a utility. ("Utility," by the way, appears to be one of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's favorite words.)

Robert Scoble thinks Facebook is not doomed but it is really too early to know for sure. What we really need to know is how many active members there are at MySpace, Facebook or Bebo.

Will users of these sites dump them for another service or for privacy as they get older? Facebook isn't so over dude today but what about five years from now. Five years ago who would have believed young people would stop using email? Will today's Webkinz-using grade school students really want Facebook accounts when they reach high school and college age or will they seek out new destinations of their own that people in their 30s and 40s don't get?

There is no real way to answer that question until a few years have passed but there have been many warnings against building a service that primarily targets the very young. If the next generation doesn't want Facebook then as big as Facebook has become they could still end up being beaten by Classmates.com or slowly become as uninteresting as GeoCities.

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