With Facebook passing 1.44 billion active users last April and 1.25 billion mobile users, the social networking giant appears unbeatable. And as it introduces more and more features, it is slowly edging out smaller apps and services out of the way.
In addition to buying out major apps like Instagram, Facebook’s Messenger, Places, and comments system are undeniably popular. Articles have been written asking if Facebook has made business websites, high school reunions, and postcards obsolete. There are even articles saying that Facebook is going after Twitter with a rumored breaking news app. Facebook has also put lesser known apps out of business with the introduction of features like group photo albums, and could be coming after Paypal’s customer base after introducing a way to send money to friends. If they expand this ability to send payment’s to Facebook pages, it could become a serious Paypal competitor.
The risk here is that users are increasingly putting all of their eggs in one basket. If Facebook features are anything to go by, the social media giant is trying to silo its users into its service, while also following them across the web.
So the question is which apps has Facebook gone after? The following five apps and services are either losing users to Facebook, are being eclipsed by the social network, or are, at the very least, seeing some very healthy competition.
Voice calls on Facebook Messenger already account for about 10 percent of all mobile, Internet-based calls around the world. Video calling is just a few months old so longterm stats aren’t available, but in the first two days after the feature was introduced, 1 million video calls were made.
To access video calling on Facebook, open up a chat window with a friend, and after you send them a message, a video icon will appear in the top right-hand corner. Hit that button to initiate a video conversation.
Video calling on Facebook can be done from Facebook’s mobile apps and is also available directly in your desktop browser (provided you use Firefox, Chrome, or Chrome) without having to download a separate app. In this regard, it’s one step ahead of Skype’s standalone app.
That said, if you use Skype for work, you probably won’t be jumping on the Facebook bandwagon because you can only Facebook video chat with users you have added as a friend. Another way in which Skype still beats out Facebook video calling is group video calls. It’s hard to imagine, however, that Facebook won’t introduce group video calling sooner than later.
Foursquare/Swarm and Yelp
Foursquare, which saw a significant revamp in which all check-in features were relocated to its new app Swarm, is also losing out to Facebook. The two apps probably slipped off a lot of people’s radar with the introduction of Facebook Places, and this has become even more the case with the introduction of Place Tips this past January, which includes location features, meaning it could also take a chunk out of Yelp‘s business.
Looking at actual engagement numbers, the Washington Monument, for example, has 71,505 check-ins on Swarm, and 1,133 ratings and 253 tips (or reviews) on Foursquare. On Facebook, on the other hand, it has 582,170 check-ins and well over 5,000 reviews. These figures don’t even scratch the surface of Facebook’s more popular locations, like Times Square, which has over 6 million check-ins and over 200,00 reviews.
Facebook Places allows you to share places you’ve been with your Facebook friends, so you can let your friends and followers know what you liked, or didn’t like, about any particular place. Businesses can also log in to Facebook and claim their location, which allows them to post updates and update their business information.
If you’re using Facebook on your phone, thanks to Places Tips, you can now look up nearby restaurants, coffee shops, nightlife venues, hotels, shopping, outdoor venues, and more – much like Yelp. If you’d rather not share your location with Facebook, you can also look up venues by entering the location yourself.
On individual locations, you can rate and review them, view the menu, map, and more. These features also integrate directly into the Facebook pages of these venues, provided they claim them.
Because of the ecosystem built by Facebook, this feature can actually be far more reliable than Yelp, particularly if you have a lot of friends. Reading reviews written by your friends, or friends of friends, can be more useful than reviews by perfect strangers on Yelp. Facebook has also been testing a more robust Instagram-Facebook Places integration, which would have a direct effect on Instagram-Foursquare integration.
Needless to say, privacy concerns should be kept in mind. In fact, Facebook has come under fire in the past from groups like the ACLU, and more recently Facebook Places was found to be in violation of EU law. If you don’t want to share your location, remember that Places Tips is opt-out, and you can switch it off by following Facebook’s guide. Also be sure to check out our guide on how to tweak your Facebook Places security settings.
A combination of Facebook Messenger on mobile phones and Facebook Chat in browsers could be cutting into the time people spend using email or text messaging. While having to install a separate app with Facebook Messenger is admittedly annoying, if all of your friends are on Facebook anyway, it could become an easier way to keep in touch – one that is free and cross-platform. Facebook messenger now has 800 million users and has been downloaded 1 billion times from Google Play.
And with the exception of work related email, Facebook Chat has undoubtedly become an easier way to stay in touch with your friends, particularly with the introduction of group messaging both in the browser and in the mobile app.
Facebook Chat comes with some key features, including taking your chats ‘off-the-record’, in other words, not saving the chat history. You can also rely on third-party apps for added functionality, like chatting outside of your browser with Mac app, Current, or on services that give you a little more privacy, like Cryptocat which allows you to encrypt your Facebook chats.
If you’re an Android user, Facebook’s app Hello might also be replacing your phone’s native dialer. Hello has a built in caller ID, allows you to block calls, and has a built-in Facebook search feature. Find out more about Facebook’s app in our review about Hello.
Facebook’s commenting system can be seen all over the web. From the Huffington Post to TechCrunch, from ESPN to BuzzFeed, Facebook comments appear to be taking over the web, eclipsing services like Disqus and LiveFyre.
There are some conflicting figures on how many websites actually use Facebook comments, but all of them agree on one thing – Facebook accounts for around 50 percent of all commenting systems across the web. According to SimilarTech, the Facebook Comments plugin has been installed on over 1 million websites, almost double the number of sites using Disqus. SimilarTech adds that Facebook leads in the top 10,000 sites, top 100,000 sites, top 1 million sites, and in the entire web. Datanyze, on the other hand, says that, as of October 2015, around 400,000 sites use Facebook commenting.
The obvious advantage to using Facebook as a commenting system is that you’re not asking your readers to log into an additional service or website in order to leave a comment. It also gives admin a means to manage comments. On the other hand, it does place a key part of your website at the mercy of a third party, and one that has come under fire for the way in which it tracks its users online. It also means that readers who don’t use Facebook (yes they exist) won’t have a way to interact with your website.
Can you think of any other Facebook features that are signaling the demise of significant apps? Let us know in the comments.