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Facebook hits 1 billion users, time for a sharp exit

Software & AppsBlog
by Tim Verry, 05 Oct 2012Blog
Facebook hits 1 billion users, time for a sharp exit

Facebook has reached a milestone of 1 billion users worldwide. Once exclusive to students over in the States, it is now used by anyone across the globe willing to give the company a bit of personal information. After that’s done you can join the social network and connect with just about everyone you’ve ever met.

The social networking giant is not without its issues, however. As Facebook literally runs out of new users to recruit, it has us wondering – is it set to be the next Myspace as frustrated users move onto the next big thing? There are some clear reasons why it’s time to go…

Facebook is a huge target

It is no secret that Facebook has a massive amount of data. Contact, financial, and personal information is stored on the company’s servers, and with 1 billion identities behind all that, it is a seriously tempting target for hackers. In the past, the service has had to contend with various scams, phishing schemes, and likely an inordinate amount of spam. As the service grows, it is likely that such tactics will only increase in addition to a resurgence of direct attacks as hackers attempt to get at user information stored in Facebook’s databases.

A Facebook data breach would essentially be the holy grail of hacks. The attackers would have access to sensitive personal information as well as a great deal of data to sift through in order to create more efficient password crackers based on patterns (one reason why randomly generated pass phrases from a password manager are a good idea).

Network effect gone wild

Along with the security aspects, the sheer amount of users and data flowing through the service has become overwhelming for many users. Despite the new Timeline profiles and beefed up filtering options in the news feed, friends are inundated with posts from status updates and application spam

notifications. If you are in a group of friends, Facebook will even happily flood the home page with conversations between other people that do not even involve you, at least if you are not on top of your filtering efforts.

Basically, at some point, there is just too much data to sift through, and people will get burnt out by the service as Facebook becomes less fun and more like work (that you aren’t getting paid for, mind you). At least, personally, I’ve stopped using Facebook for anything besides PMs, and the only thing keeping me doing that much is that it is easier for my family to use Facebook messages and IMs than to use email. A quick scroll through my news feed quickly reminds me why I stopped regularly checking in.

Obligatory friending/liking/sharing

With 1 billion users, you are now able to connect to family, friends, and everyone at your school or within your organisation. Myspace was the go-to place years ago, but was overtaken by Facebook as it represented something that seemed more exclusive. Your parents and co-workers (as great as they are) were not on it yet, so you were able to be a bit more relaxed with conversations and opinion sharing. Now the cycle is repeating, as everyone in your life moves over to Facebook to connect with you. In that respect, Facebook has lost a lot of its initial appeal and lustre.

Slower moving and more corporate

When Facebook was a younger service without shareholders to please, it seemed like a more flexible company. Facebook was able to try out new things, quickly roll out new features, and re-invent itself to innovate and keep users happy. Flexibility does not seem to be a trait of Facebook anymore, however. The company’s last big news was Timeline and then their purchase of up-and-coming photo sharing service Instagram… six months ago. Yes, Facebook seemingly figuring out a good formula for keeping – and monetising – users is a good thing for (stock ticker symbol) FB but that doesn’t mean it’s the best for users.

And there is a good deal of competition out there with Google+, Twitter, and an overhauled Myspace that is attempting to woo users back with a touch-friendly UI (okay, maybe the latter’s a less serious threat, but at least they are trying new things). Granted, these services are not quite ready to take on Facebook, but they are innovating and it is only a matter of time before users start taking notice. Along the same lines was Diaspora, which ended up being a spectacular failure, but not before garnering a huge amount of attention.

Facebook is the social networking giant today, but it’s possible that it’s grown too large to sustain itself. Is the social networking cycle due to come around again, or does Facebook’s size and war chest mean that it’ll be on top for the foreseeable future?

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