I like Facebook. I spend waaaaaay more time than is good for me on there. It’s definitely more user-friendly and easier to work than the often-headache inducing (and, like Darren Anderton, permanently crocked) MySpace. There’s certainly a lot of unexplored potential. But I can’t see it changing the world: it’s just currently the market leader in what it does, and what it does, it does well.
But the site still feels like a distraction rather than a necessity. It doesn’t actually do anything. Actually let me rephrase that: it doesn’t do anything I currently find useful.
It’s not Google, in terms of searching. It’s not wordpress, or even blogger in terms of blogging – if I’m blogging, then it’s intended for the whole world, not just friends. While I can import blog posts from here, it’s more a way of letting friends know I’m actually writing something (which, face it, hasn’t been happening much of late) than driving up traffic, and isn’t technorati when it comes to sifting through relevant blog posts.
If there’s an RSS-collating tool I’ve yet to find it. Even then, it’ll have to do a lot to supplant netvibes or Google Reader in my affections. The groups are too arbitrary, too saturated, have little quality control and, with the exception of the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue Appreciation society, there doesn’t appear to be any definite ones for certain fan areas. I’ve joined about four Exeter City related groups, but none of them reach the level of the dedicated fan site, Exeweb.
It can be useful for tracking people down for stories, or for info on a particular event. It is a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends. But there’s plenty of other reasons I use the net and it doesn’t come anywhere near providing any kind of competition for these.
And because the service is more social than crossing the work/play divide, it’s vulnerable to crisp syndrome. If Myspace was Golden Wonder, and Friends Reunited Smith Salt n Shake, the Facebook it currently Walkers. Chances are it’ll still be around and popular for years to come, but when somebody comes up with the social networking equivalent of Pringles (and its only a matter of time before that happens) then it’ll suffer.
To continue the food analogy, if Facebook is to become the internet equivalent of a Heinz or Coca-Cola style brand (something that Google currently is), then it needs to come up with something extra to make sure it’s not surpassed, something that makes people say, ‘Yeah, there are other networking sites out there, but I’m sticking with this one.’ I’m not convinced its reached that stage yet.