Thursday, July 07, 2011

Yes, Facebook has lots of users. So what?

Another day, another article about Facebook's global takeover. Yes, I know that FB now has 750m members, which is clearly a lot of people. However, the obsession with registered users feels very like the rush for pixels in the digital camera business a few back, or the stampede for ever larger app stores amongst the mobile vendors.

I don't care if FB has 1bn members (anecdotal evidence suggests that registrations peaks at apprx. 50% internet users within a country), a camera has 50m pixels or my mobile app store has 1m applications - if they're not my friends, my favourite apps, or the pictures still come out blurry it's a problem.

Google+ is the victim in the latest article - with the Facebook-Skype deal apparently sounding the death-knell for the new Hangouts video-chat service. I don't think it will kill it, and what is more, I think the niche audience that G+ is rapidly acquiring (albeit fanned by the limited access to invites) is more valuable than the mass of humanity represented by FB*.

In a similar vein, if I was a camera vendor I would pay a lot more to advertise on Flickr than Facebook (yes, I know Flickr doesn't have ads, it's a theoretical point), because people on Flickr care about photos, and people on Facebook don't. (I'm also sure there are hundreds of amateur photo groups on Facebook - but if they really cared they'd be on Flickr, as it's a destination defined by the quality of images available.)

I am sure that it makes sense for all commercial entities to have a presence on Facebook, and to invest in a "social media strategy", but they are supporting acts; the web is the superset of all properties, and will outlive Facebook.

* NB This obviously doesn't apply to the drinks brand WKD - whose natural habitat is clearly Facebook on a Friday night.

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