Reality bites: Fed-up with Facebook, the kids are are going somewhere "cooler".
Facebook is nearly ten years old and is aging fast. Indeed, in terms of the development of new social networking apps, it is in sclerotic late middle-age and liable to fall down the stairs soon if it doesn't watch its step. Most Facebook fans are young, quickly bored and fickle. They go wherever the next trend leads them - and that is away from Facebook which many former users now regard as 'establishment',"too straight", "tired" and thoroughly old hat.
Facebook has consistently tried to play down the fact that it is losing users but it does have to file factual, unvarnished, un-spun data with the US government and its agencies and its latest 10-K annual performance report that every public company (and, as many investors know to their cost and chagrin, Facebook is very much a public company) must submit to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shows clearly that it is bleeding users.
Facebook's 10-K report states, "We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook. For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favour of increased engagement with other products and services."
Here's the best bit, "In the event that our users increasingly engage with other products and services, we may experience a decline in user engagement and our business could be harmed." "No shit, Sherlock", as Raymond Chandler so succinctly put it.
You'd need a heart of stone not to laugh at a company trying so hard to stay a teenager itself whilst being subject to the to the demands of Wall Street and its (sometimes) rather more adult denizens. It's also very entertaining to see some applied understatement rather than the usual over-hyped guff and stentorian ballyhoo that is the stock-in-trade of the windbags in Facbook's massive marketing and PR departments.
One of the things that teenagers don't like about Facebook (and I have asked by own teenage grandchildren about this and gained kudos for being ever-so-slightly "cool" for a man of my age and infirmities by never having subscribed to it in the first place) is because they don't like the notion that they have almost no control over the images they post to the site, that they are there forever and they are tagged. Also, far too many of their parents are on Facebook trying to keep tabs on their offspring, and their offspring don't want tabs to be kept on them. The answer? Go somewhere else, of which the adults know little or nothing.
They now look at Facebook through the jaundiced eyes of those who thought they were part of something relevant and, yes, even principled but who have now discovered that there is no such thing as a free lunch or a free social networking site. They are right, there isn't and thus,they are migrating to the likes of Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Snapchat photos and videos simply appear and then, magically, disappear. Kids like that, and one can understand why.
But I wonder how many know that Facebook owns Instagram? True it isn't making any money from it because it has no advertising model and Facebook seems to have absolutely no idea about how to tie Instagram into its own apps - but you can bet your life it is trying.
Facebook isn't down and out yet, it still has a billion users, a great many of whom seem to like, or at least are prepared to put up with, Facebook's bland, conformist, vanilla-flavoured service but the kids won't stay.
Elsewhere Facebook is trying to remaim relevant in a rapidly changing world by concentrating a lot of resources on apps for mobile devices (including the increasingly infamous Google Glass project) but there can be no doubt the company is past its perihelion and is slipping inexorably into the late afternoon of its existence, if not yet the evening of it.
Teenagers know that, maybe even through the hive mind that apparently exhibits itself on some social networking sites, and are moving off in their swarms to land, briefly, elsewhere to interact and indulge their teenage ennui for a while, before flying on again to the next Big Thing.
'Twas ever thus. Remember MySpace?