Updated: Like, Facebook is so over, dude

by Mathew on February 22, 2008 · 15 comments

Update:

Facebook is taking issue with the BBC’s report of a user decline. A Facebook spokesperson sent me this statement: “The number of users for Facebook continues to climb in the UK. Our internal monthly active user numbers rose between December and January in the UK and are now at more than 8.3 million. Facebook tracks active monthly users, rather than registered user or unique visitors. Active users reflect those who have used the site in the past 30 days.”

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch has a similar type of post about Facebook U.S., although I think it might just show the same kind of seasonal fluctuation that others have mentioned in the posts I’ve linked to below. In fact, if you look at Erick’s graph there is a very similar falloff at about the same time last year.

Original post:

What are we to make of the reports that Facebook’s user base declined in Britain in January, as the BBC has breathlessly reported? Well, obviously it means that the social-networking site is over, and we should move on to the next big thing. Or does it? While Facebook’s growth is inevitably going to slow, and some of those who jumped on the bandwagon may fall off over time for various reasons, I think it’s a bit much to ring the bell of doom based on one downtick. In the BBC story, one media analyst says:

“Social networking is as much about who isn’t on the site as who is – when Tory MPs and major corporations start profiles on Facebook, its brand is devalued, driving its core user base into the arms of newer and more credible alternatives.”

I would have liked a list of those “newer and more credible alternatives,” because as far as I can tell my oldest daughter (18) and her friends continue to use Facebook just as much, if not more — and so does my middle daughter and her group of friends, who are 14. As the BBC story notes (towards the end), Facebook’s user base in Britain is more than 700 per cent larger than it was a year ago. And as WinExtra and The Last Podcast note, seasonal dips are not uncommon.

I will admit that I’ve been using Facebook less of late, in part because — as I’ve discussed here before — I’ve been using Twitter more, and that’s where I keep in touch with people and exchange links and so forth. But I still use Facebook to track what’s going on with my non-Twitter friends, and in fact I seem to be using Facebook messages even more, since my teenaged daughter uses that instead of email.

  • http://www.praized.com/blog Sebastien Provencher

    I think “grown-ups” who jumped on Facebook in the last few months and industry pundits (like you and me) who “discovered” Facebook last summer are coming to the realization that Facebook is really just a place to have fun and re-connect with old friends. That's not a bad thing as it's teaching social media etiquette to a whole generation of online users but it's not (yet?) a killer must-use site. I explored that concept in a recent blog post called “Facebook is just a game”.

    And like you, I find myself using Twitter more and more as a business tool.

  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    I think that Rory Cellan-Jones (and Sebastien Provencher here in the comment section) are probably right in that it's Generation X and older generations who are the cause for the drop in Facebook usage (assuming seasonality isn't a factor). I know that my Facebook usage is a fraction of what it used to be since I migrated out of the exploratory phase.

    On the other hand, I'm using Twitter more and more.

    In short, Facebook's core market will be the cohort that's been using it since their teenage years and I'm sure that will continue to grow over time as younger kids hit the age when they'd be interested in using it.

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com antje wilsch

    It will level off, it has to. Most people I know who are not involved heavily in technology (mostly outside the valley) can't or don't use facebook at work, and a lot of the parents I know are on it simply to monitor their kids.

  • http://www.centernetworks.com/facebook-dip-seasonal-erick-schonfeld allen

    Mathew – I believe it is seasonal as well.
    http://www.centernetworks.com/facebook-dip-seas

  • http://www.fourreasonswhy.com Mr. List
  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    it’s a bit much to ring the bell of doom based on one downtick

    Yes, it is. However it's interesting to look at the way many online game sites – in some ways the precursors to social networking – graph in terms of traffic. They usually show rapid increases as people become interested in the game and play it obsessively, followed by decline. More importantly, as developers get around to doing the architecture right and we see seamless internet surfing using open social tools where the social network=the internet, I'm wondering how Facebook and Myspace will play more than a mildly supportive role in things.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I would agree, Joe — I think OpenSocial and DiSo and movements like
    that are one of the biggest threats to Facebook as a platform, to the
    extent that they allow people to create their own social networks
    through their blogs or websites or whatever.

    On Fri, Feb 22, 2008 at 4:57 PM, Disqus

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com antje wilsch

    I think at the end of the day, since these sites are all ad supported, it doesn't matter so long as wherever the data is being pulled from can show ads to the users. That'll be the challenge – if everything is open, determining where the user will see the ad and whoever controls that – wins.

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com antje wilsch

    It will level off, it has to. Most people I know who are not involved heavily in technology (mostly outside the valley) can't or don't use facebook at work, and a lot of the parents I know are on it simply to monitor their kids.

  • http://www.centernetworks.com/facebook-dip-seasonal-erick-schonfeld allen

    Mathew – I believe it is seasonal as well.
    http://www.centernetworks.com/facebook-dip-seas

  • http://www.fourreasonswhy.com Mr. List
  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    it’s a bit much to ring the bell of doom based on one downtick

    Yes, it is. However it's interesting to look at the way many online game sites – in some ways the precursors to social networking – graph in terms of traffic. They usually show rapid increases as people become interested in the game and play it obsessively, followed by decline. More importantly, as developers get around to doing the architecture right and we see seamless internet surfing using open social tools where the social network=the internet, I'm wondering how Facebook and Myspace will play more than a mildly supportive role in things.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I would agree, Joe — I think OpenSocial and DiSo and movements like
    that are one of the biggest threats to Facebook as a platform, to the
    extent that they allow people to create their own social networks
    through their blogs or websites or whatever.

    On Fri, Feb 22, 2008 at 4:57 PM, Disqus

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com antje wilsch

    I think at the end of the day, since these sites are all ad supported, it doesn't matter so long as wherever the data is being pulled from can show ads to the users. That'll be the challenge – if everything is open, determining where the user will see the ad and whoever controls that – wins.

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