Facebook Shatters Into Apps — And It's The Only Way Forward

Fixed diptych

Farhad Manjoo says "The Future of Facebook May Not Say ‘Facebook’" in the New York Times. Read the article, because it clearly points the direction for the future of Facebook (and of nearly everything else). From the article:

“What we’re doing with Creative Labs is basically unbundling the big blue app,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a recent interview at the firm’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
 
In the past, he said, Facebook was one big thing, a website or mobile app that let you indulge all of your online social needs. Now, on mobile phones especially, Facebook will begin to splinter into many smaller, more narrowly focused services, some of which won’t even carry Facebook’s branding, and may not require a Facebook account to use.

In retrospect, this was inevitable. Here are two reasons why.

  1. Facebook the desktop application has tried to swallow everything: social, photo sharing, commenting, check-ins, messaging, email, the list goes on and on. But most of us don't want all of our interactions to take place in a single spot filled with ads. There is innovation happening outside of Facebook, and there is this thing called the Internet that supports that innovation. Inevitably, Facebook's hope to become the one location everyone goes to for everything will fail, and eventually even its hope to be the one location you go to for social will fail. It has a lock on your identity and good knowledge of your friend graph. That's its core asset.
  2. The focus of interaction is shifting to mobile moments . . . especially those moments that occur between other tasks, like waiting for an elevator or on your lunch hour. Single-purpose apps win in those mobile moments. One massive Facebook mega-app doesn't.

Julie Ask says that Facebook bought WhatsApp ($19 billion) for its user base. I agree. But in the world of The Mobile Mind Shift, Facebook retains relevance only if it becomes relevant in mobile interactions, and that requires a "collection of apps" future.

If you're worried about the future of Facebook, you should be. It's failing marketers, as our Facebook expert, Nate Elliot, has pointed out. Its pivot to a collection of mobile apps will be extraordinarily difficult. But it's the only way forward. If you disagree, ask yourself — do you really think a single monolithic Facebook app will still be relevant five years from now?

Photo by Holmistic Walker via Flickr

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