I’m a skeptic of gloom and doom, don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard everything said about the demise of Facebook and I’ve been their staunch defender for years now. But something is fundamentally changing, or maybe a few trends are showing up that lead me to believe Facebook is losing traction as a social media tool and, more importantly, isn’t gaining traction as a business tool. That ultimately means that Facebook’s future isn’t secure and the information you put there can’t be expected to stay there forever.
Facebook is risky for logging your life because it may or may not survive in the long term. Here are three very good reasons:
1. Facebook is about one-to-‘some limited number’ of connections – As much as we can share broadly and Facebook has tried to force us to do so several times over, Facebook’s rise to popularity depending on users choosing their network and then interacting with those choices. That’s fundamentally not the same as Twitter and other platforms where the conversation is more public and broadly engaged.
If people move loosen their definition of ‘friend’ to make Facebook more public, it starts to seem less and less like he platform that engaged 1 billion people for the first time in history.
The conundrum? If Facebook exposes people to non-friends, they break the contract with their users. If they don’t, they struggle to be relevant to advertisers. That’s a risky tightrope to walk.
2. Documenting our lives is no longer limited to Facebook – From 2007 to today, a host of ways to document our lives arrived on the scene. Facebook is where our friends and family are, so there’s an inertia that won’t change overnight, but from a ‘Where else can I put everything?’ standpoint, Facebook is no longer alone. That matters enormously for those tired of Facebook and those eager to try out new platforms that are popping up constantly.
3. Facebook is a cul-de-sac – Zuckerberg knows his platform’s limitations and that’s why there’s no ‘export’ button the way there is on other sites. As our world becomes more electronic and far less paper, people need safe, neutral places to put their life’s stories. Interestingly, WordPress is emerging as an easy place to ‘park’ our life stories as text, documents (including photos and videos). WordPress’ export functionality makes it a safe harbor throughout the change and eliminates the cul-de-sac problem of Facebook.
What we really want as much as we want social interaction is a way to log our lives that doesn’t end up being destroyed by nature’s unstoppable and unpredictable forces (water, wind, acid rain or fire) or isn’t canceled when a site goes dark or just looks like a foolish choice based on changing trends (like Friendster, MySpace and maybe, Facebook).
This challenge means taking a diversified approach much the way a bank lays off risk by spreading investments across markets and geographies. For us, the strategy is to do the following:
- Dropbox for our key files (about $120/year)
- Facebook for current events and to engage socially (free)
- Two 1TB drives that backs up our electronic files ($200)
- WordPress as a place to keep our thoughts and ‘life logs’ that’s periodically exported to a file
Each of these four things is only secure because we do each of the others. We can’t only use physical media, we can’t completely rely on third parties like Dropbox and WordPress, and we certainly can’t put our investment solely in Facebook.