Is Facebook sinking or swimming?

By Ray O'Reilly

Like an ocean predator, if is not moving forward, it is dying. So is this big fish drowning or can it continue to swim with the tide?

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Thanks for everything, Zuckers! Photo: Guillaume Paumier,

Some shark species have to keep moving to wash fresh water over their gills to stay alive. So, too, the common Facebook shark which has preyed on the world's online waders for nearly a decade now. But like many shark populations, Facebook shark may also soon find itself on the red list of endangered species. Reasons?

I'd love to be able to carry on the simile further and simply say it's down to … ahem … ‘over-phishing' but strictly speaking that isn't Facebook's typical modus operandi… at least not yet. Alas, there are a few mitigating factors, and I'm pleased to say none are related to climate change, unless you count the recent so-so debut on the as a sign of global cooling towards this online colossus.

No, there are other factors which portend the ultimate demise of this ‘big fish'. To date, the giant has fed on its denizens – their data and at least – with all the table manners you'd expect of a cold-blooded killer. So it's perhaps only a matter of time before Facebook gets ugly once its lifeblood, you and I, realise the social media wave pool is more like a fish farm dominated by corporate ‘story tellers' – or is it advertisers? – feeding you meal made from other fish.

Think about it!

And don't get me started on the FB Timeline – a new way for you to document the milestones of your life for millions of others to see. Timeline's creators achieved something quite remarkable with this new data-gathering tool, somehow stripping the ‘logical' part from what should be a straight-forward reverse chronological display of your life.

Since Timeline's introduction earlier this year the fanfare has garnered no fans in my world. Now the haters in your FB community are given prominence for evermore and without the simple ‘Wall', the all-so-important conversations are stilted and lack cogency because no one can fathom where the hell the conversation starts and stops.

Meanwhile, the new prominence of ads – sorry, I mean stories – crowd out the people, casting a glaring spotlight on this most recent of Facebook's cynical commercial ploys to monetise your data.

So, if the forecast for Facebook is gradual ‘MySpace' decline with a chance of total ‘Yahoo!' collapse as shareholders head for the lifeboats, the big question is what's next? You could well imagine a big buyout by the likes of Amazon who'd love to get their hands on FB's ‘intelligence', which is basically your data that you're increasingly signing over.  This could be followed by a raft of embarrassing moves to justify the sale price… new stuff and apps but nothing substantial … in fact, more of the same.

Real people will defriend Facebook real fast and the corporations will carry on for a while until they realise there's something else better out there that real people are into and where the commercial potential has been built-in rather than clumsily tacked on over the years. Pinterest comes to mind here.

Pinterest is being pitched as the hottest company on the web right now, “what Google+ should be”, according to It's a modern and refreshingly simple (compared to Facebook nowadays) feed of images and catchy news headlines.

“What makes Pinterest the most interesting of the sites is that it is actually oriented around the merchants. The pins [like a pin-up board] are mostly links to cool products that the person likes. It's meant for this almost exclusively,” says PCMags' John Dvorak.

Biggest problem for most people who want to migrate out of Facebook's dragnet will be extricating their virtual lives – photos, friends, ‘stories' – out of this platform and into whatever new medium is topping the ‘social media' charts in five or so years' time.

Actually, maybe Timeline will come in handy by documenting your hasty exit, which could go something like:

Andy read EU introduces new law on the “right to be forgotten online”

Andy just read How to export data from Facebook to XXX

And the trending story of 5 January 201X:

Andy commented ten times on story Thanks for everything Zuckers!


  • Ray O'Reilly

    Ray O'Reilly writes like he thinks… between the lines. Formerly a columnist for (A)WAY, an English-language magazine in Belgium, today Ray focuses on script-writing projects, blogging and avoiding parties.

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2 thoughts on “Is Facebook sinking or swimming?

  • Rayofftheradar

    Fair point Declan. Hadn’t reckoned on the potential mobile misstep, but it may well be the deal-breaker. 

  • F’book’s big problem appears to be not the timeline, but that it’s not mobile ready (especially re adverts).

    It’s a laptop app.. and people no longer use laptops for social media, they use smartphones & tablets,  and FB haven’t figured out how to stuff a phone screen with adverts without crashing their mobile app and/or pissing off their users with cluttered screens, thus FB are finding it harder & harder  to “monetize” their users. The user data / intelligence is of course of value but definitely not the IPO valuation.  Question is who thought the valuation of $38 was a good idea..  and why, as it didn’t make economic sense based on earnings and growth targets (considering the change to mobile users) .  The upcoming court cases re the IPO will be interesting to watch.The two Instagram founders bought out for $1 Billion by FB may turn out to be the luckiest guys of the latest internet bubble.BTW.. I think you “jumped the shark” with aquatic theme! 


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