Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

Ads by Google

Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote: “The only constant is change”. This is especially true on the Internet, where some of the most popular apps, websites and services of today are nothing more than a memory tomorrow.

In a fantastic article this month, Matt Smith described some of the past social networks that preceded Facebook. You may remember many of them, like Friendster, LiveJournal, and of course the former King of the Internet — MySpace.

In the couple of decades that I’ve been crawling around on this sprawling and growing web, I’ve seen one pattern occur over and over: Everyone becomes convinced that those standing on the top of the hill are going to be there forever. Inevitably though, a brilliant innovator from a new generation thinks just a bit further outside the box, and dethrones the king.

It happened with the massive and seemingly endless community of AOL Online during the dialup days, it happened with Yahoo Search and Lycos during the late 1990’s until the rise of Google. And when it comes to Facebook, history is more likely than not to repeat itself. Why?

What’s the Future of Facebook?

I’ve always believed that the best way to prevent a repeat of history is to study the past. If you were asked to name a past social network that had a meteoric rise to fame over a few short years, seemingly poised to take over the entire Internet, before tumbling into obscurity, the first thing that should come to mind is MySpace.

You can see the amazing life cycle of MySpace in Google Trends, and the rise and fall of what many believed was an unstoppable social network is clear as day.

Ads by Google

facebook myspace1   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

It becomes even more clear when you overlay that history with the rise of Facebook. This is nearly ironclad proof (or at least an interesting coincidence) that the rise of Facebook completely annihilated MySpace.

facebook myspace2   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

The rise of Facebook, and it’s current peak, is causing this generation of Internet travelers to make the same claims that people used to make about MySpace. That is, Facebook is and always will be the king of social networks. All hail Mark Zuckerberg!

Is Facebook The King Of The Hill?

In his article on past social networks, Matt wrote that Facebook will not be “dethroned any time soon”, and in his predictions for the future, Matt called Facebook “king”.  In Dave LeClair’s coverage of Diaspora, one of the readers commented that “Facebook is definitively the king”, and in Mark’s article on how many Americans are on Facebook, yet another reader wrote “Facebook is the current king of the hill, no doubt.”

All it takes is a quick look at Facebook’s popularity as a search trend compared to Google’s to see just how much of a king Facebook really is (Facebook is the blue line).

facebook myspace3b   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

So, is that it then? Is Facebook now and forever the ruler of the Internet and king of this hill? Well, to answer that it’s important to put things in perspective, and to first step back in time a few years. What better place to do that, than right here at MakeUseOf, since we’ve been around for so long?

When MySpace Was King

Rewind 7 years. Nearly a decade. A guy named Aibek Esengulov was working hard at building up a relatively new technology blog, and much of the coverage back then was about the biggest and most popular social network of the day — MySpace.

In one of his very early articles in 2006 covering MySpace tools, Aibek wrote: “Do you guyz know that myspace is most popular site on the web, outnumbering Big Brother Google in pageviews.”

facebook myspace4   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

How’s that for a trip down memory lane? Aibek added that the monster social network was, at the time, adding 230,000 registered accounts daily. It was bigger than Google. It was rocking the online world like no one had ever seen before. Sounds familiar?

Fast forward back to 2013, and you’ve got Yaara now covering MySpace’s attempt to try and reinvent the sunken ship as a place for musicians and their fans.  As the charts above show, interest in MySpace is essentially dead when compared to Facebook. How could such a thing happen to such a giant, when everyone back then thought that it was the ruler of the Internet? Is it possible for Facebook to someday follow the same footsteps?

The Rise Of Google+

If Facebook isn’t careful, the answer to that question will be yes. There could be plenty of threats that come out of left field, but right now the biggest, obvious contender is Google+, and Google is not letting up the pressure. In fact, with its authorship initiative, which I briefly described in my recent article on blogging, it’s clear that Google is going no-holds-barred.

When Google+ got started, you may remember a pretty dismal reaction. There was plenty of fanfare thanks to marketing, but it hasn’t skyrocketed, as you can see from its Trends chart.

facebook myspace3   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

Still, it hasn’t died, and it is slowly rising in terms of sign-ups. According to a Business Insider article in May of this year, Google+ is actually outpacing Twitter to become the second most popular social network in the world. Figures released last December revealed there were 500 million people with Google+ accounts. Meanwhile Facebook had 701 million active users.

Actual numbers being reported today around the Internet bring in Facebook at over a billion, and Google+ anywhere from 700 million to slightly over a billion. Either way, the reality is that Google+ is gaining, and gaining fast.

Facebook Needs To Take Google Head On

Here’s the problem that Facebook has to deal with. Google controls the Internet through Google Search. That’s the bottom line. It also controls Chrome, and that’s a problem as well as I’ll show you below.

The problem with Google owning search is that they’ve just delivered a serious blow to Facebook by strengthening the Google authorship connection to search listings with the recent Hummingbird algorithm update. Google is tempting folks by endowing people who have “authenticated” their authorship with a cool little image and Google+ network marketing right there in the search results.

facebook myspace5   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

Everyone wants that extra bonus feature for better clickthrough rates. The catch? You need to “confirm authorship” inside your Google+ account. Therefore, to rank well, you need to be a Google+ member. It’s a brilliant move on Google’s part, and Facebook has no way to compete with it.

Also, with the Google+ profile available directly from within Google Search listings, as people browse search results, checking your Google+ profile or posting an update is as easy as clicking in the top right corner of the search page.

facebook myspace6   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

Even as companies ban Facebook throughout corporate networks, Google is such an embedded part of Internet access that it’s not as likely that Google+ would get banned. Google+ is getting tightly integrated with Google search, and that is by design.

One might suggest — as much as I love Google — that this represents a bit of a monopoly situation.  Microsoft (Bing) has been complaining about it for a while, and if Facebook wants a fighting chance at surviving this race and coming out on top, it might want to consider joining forces and fighting this whole thing in the courts.

Google+ Integration With Chrome

Think about it. Not only is Google taking advantage of its monopoly in the search domain to achieve control in the social network market, but it’s also using its control over the Internet browser market for the same purpose.

Take a look at which Internet browser is now the most popular of the three leading browsers —Chrome (blue), Firefox (red), IE (yellow).

facebook myspace8   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

As of 2013, Chrome is well in the lead. How is Google using this to gain a foothold in the social network arena? Well, when you browse sites that have a G+ share button from within Chrome, and if you’re signed into Chrome, it’ll pop-up a notification suggesting that you recommend the story. None of the other buttons do that.

facebook myspace7   Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace?

Running the same page on Firefox or IE, that’s just not the case. All buttons behave equally, unless you specifically install a Google+ plugin.

What Is Facebook’s Future?

So the reality is that, yes — Facebook is most certainly king today. I personally love Facebook and post there at least 10-20 times a day. I message friends and colleagues there. I do business there.

However, as history has shown, things change. It could become just as easy to do all of those things on Google+, and with enough pressure from Google’s various monopolies, the major shift there could happen sooner rather than later.

Will Facebook suffer the same fate as MySpace? Will the king be dethroned only to be replaced with a king of an even larger variety? The future is hard to predict, but it sure is fun to speculate, isn’t it? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.

Ads by Google

21 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Kercelia F

As I remember, MySpace was looked upon as a site mostly for younger users several years ago when it was very popular. Facebook appealed more to older users. Now, however, Facebook is about comparable to MySpace when it was strongest.

Reply

likefunbutnot

Sites that emphasize social content are always going to be subject to fads and limited by the appeal of their nature. Facebook started as essentially the college hook-up site and has declined to the point where it’s now the place young people avoid visiting because their idiot relatives won’t stop posting the stupid crap that used to show up as “FW:FW: FW:FW: FW…” in their e-mail box. Kids and hyper-connected hip people have moved on.

A Social Media Site that gets big enough to become a credible player that’s run by actual businesspeople is a social media site that’s going to collapse under the weight of crappy businesspeople decision-making and tiresome interaction that are going to make desirable demographics within the user base flee. I believe the pace is already accelerating with changes to how tumblr operates and I suspect that about 95% of Google+’s user base comes from people just clicking past its prompts while trying to sign on to Gmail or Youtube.

Ryan D

Yeah – but the fact that kids and hyper-connected people have moved on, and that Facebook has become more “mainstream” – does that mark the start of it’s downfall (like MySpace) or just the next phase of it’s growth? That’s what I’m really curious about. Will history repeat itself or is this a new game?

Phil N

It looks like you’ve never used Google+. Take a look and see the vast amounts of people using it every day.

likefunbutnot

Once again I shall take this opportunity to bitch about MUO’s crappy lack of nested commenting but…

@Phil N,

I’ve never used any social networking service at all, but I’ve also never seen or heard a single human being mention or inquire Google+ except in the the context of being bugged to join it while signing in to some other Google Service. On the other hand I’ve at least HEARD young people casually talking about tumblr.

@Ryan D,

Mainstream is the beginning of the end, because it’s also the end of the most interesting demographic for the service. Sure, those services might still see some growth, but it won’t be from the kinds of people that make a social networking service a draw; 100 Midwestern relatives who do nothing but “like” each other’s baby pictures aren’t nearly as useful for a site that relies on social connections as one kinda-cute recent graduate in a high visibility startup or a thritysomething engineer who is proud of his new Audi A5.

Reply

Joel L

I think Facebook will stay the generic social networking site of choice for a while longer. Google+ could’ve dethroned them but I think it debuted too early: not enough distinguishing features and a terrible “invite only” system that throttled any hype from snowballing. Waiting a few years would’ve been interesting as I feel most people nowadays only use Facebook because it’s so entrenched in culture, not because it’s good – perfect opportunity for Google+ to step in.

So, I think the only place for new social networks today is in niche markets. For example, LinkedIn.

Reply

Christian C

Until G+ offers the same community options as Facebook does (I’m thinking mainly about pages here) and makes it easier to post from other services I think Facebook will remain on top.

I’m not happy about either, to be honest. I would leave Facebook in a heartbeat if I didn’t need it for reader engagement on one of my websites.

Ryan D

Yeah – same here Christian. I use Facebook quote a bit for the Page I run for my website. Then again, I’m also very active staying in touch with Family and Friends – but once a majority of them switch, I’m sure I would too. The question is what that magic moment will be that would get everyone to make the crossover (if it ever happens).

Reply

Phil N

Are those Facebook numbers actual active users or people with accounts? Lots of Facebook members use tools that automate likes and follows so the numbers may say they’re active when they aren’t even on the site. Google+ on the other hand has no such tools.

Ryan D

Hi Phil – that’s a good point re: Facebook. I’m not certain actually. I have heard others make the same claims about Google+ however – that people are simply going to Google Plus to access Hangouts, Gmail and other Google Services. I’m not sure how valid either claim is. Just based on somewhat increased activity I’ve observed though, it does seem that G+ is picking up steam?

Phil N

Well Ryan, There would be no reason to sign up for G+ in order to access gmail or other services (except Hangouts). That really doesn’t make sense. Even if that were the case, having an account wouldn’t make you an active member.

Tom W

When Facebook employees talk about the number of active users, they are talking about the number of users who log in at least once a month. The figure of 1bn active users seems to meet that requirement from what I’ve read recently.

Tom W

I have a G+ account. I actually got one of the beta invites. I haven’t used it since. I expect that a lot of people have an account because they clicked the wrong button, or were fed up of Google asking them to, or because Youtube asked them to create a G+ account and link it to their Youtube account. How many active users do G+ have, and how many of them are social users and not business users?

I agree that Facebook will not live forever, but I don’t think that any existing service will take it down. And if history is any indication, a service labelled as a “Facebook killer” is sure to perform much more poorly than expected.

Phil Nolan

@Tom W Right, but how do you know those users are actually logging in and posting, not having some script do it for them?

You should try Google+ again. It’s vastly superior in both the site itself and the quality of users. Check out the Communities, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on in there.

Reply

JBL

My best mate and his wife, and his kids, my mom and dad-in-law, my wife, nieces and nephews, my sons, their cousins, aunts and uncles and their buddies here and in the UK, they’re all are on Facebook. We have a very broad range of close friends and remote acquaintances, from ex-coworkers to church members to people I know from track day or the Renaissance Festival or the pub, they’re all are on Facebook too.
I run my own business. Not one of my clients has ever asked me to join them on G+, it’s always -always-, “Let’s keep in contact, Friend me ok?”

Google is trying oh so hard to force its way in but it is just that -forced. It’s not enough that they’re reading your email, tracking your every step online (and if you own an ‘android’ phone your exact location and who you’re talking to). G+ is simply a way of gathering yet more info on you, THAT is its raison d’ĂŞtre.

Reply

Pat Levy

I wouldn’t jump the gun on young people getting off Facebook. Wired magazine recently had an article on gang warfare being conducted on Facebook.

Reply

dragonmouth

Facebook will hang around and hang on for a while longer but Google is the future, for now.

Google is, for now, a benevolent monopoly. They are achieving what Microsoft only dreamed about – having their tentacles into every aspect of the cyber world. However, like a kidney stone, Google too will pass.

Reply

Limpers

Those G+ numbers are automatically inflated the second someone signs up for youtube or gmail. Businesses and people in niche circles use it but there are a heavy amount of people who resent having to have it.

Reply

willIam

Facebook can better compete with Google and Google+ by adding features like Google, such as a real email system, a search outside of FB, etc. If Google can invade FB’s territory, then FB can do the same to Google. And so should other companies: Apple, MS, etc. should start making products and services for Android, etc. They should also improve their maps and search, so that people won’t be dependent on just one benevolent monopoly.

Reply

six one way half a dozen another

I’ve been actively (and by that I mean that I am on it several times a week for about an hour or two at a session) using Google+ for a year and I really can’t find any useful comparisons on Facebook for the conversations I have on Google+. I really like the communities but Facebook groups is sort of buried in the background, as if they don’t really want you to use them or at least just don’t care if you do (the sidebar has a spot for creating a group but not for finding or discovering them, a important tell). Facebook is for my family who have stop sending letters and cards and making phone calls. Google+ is for talking about my interests that my family just doesn’t share in the least.
Facebook won’t disappear but will become just another utility that people must use because “everyone is on it”.

Reply

Matthew H

I’m inclined to believe that it is, sadly. Which is a shame.

Great article as always Ryan.

Your comment