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Facebook – A Singular Bubble

Let’s go back in time.  Back in time to the 1990’s.  It’s late in the decade and the stock markets are going nuts about something called “Dotcoms”.  Everyone wants in, they see it as the thing to buy and make money on.  Some did, and some just lost it all.  Now it is just known as the Dotcom Bubble. 

In the 1990’s I was working for a large Wall Street firm and many of my clients came in asking for the latest greatest Dotcom story and wanted to invest in it.  We did not.  Again, we did not.  Why?  I believed that anything of value that could be put on the web would not be free.  Most dotcom stories were really about little technology designs, widgets, and software tweeks that couldn’t turn into a real product line.  There was very little that had the “going concern” aptitude of a Xerox copier, Intel chip, or a new oil field.  So we just stayed out of it and yes, we were right to do so. 

Roll forward to today and take a look at Facebook.  They have been able to absorb a lot of the web’s personal communication.  It uniquely allowed a platform to instantly update a site with photos and other chit-chat to go with.  Facebook had a great opportunity to advance web communication to a more personal platform so everyone can see what’s going on with everyone else.  Yes, it has some interest and the ability to attach some ads.  So far though, if you ask the question, “What value does it bring to the table for business?” the answer is, “Nearly nothing”. 

Yes, I can write something about my business, but if nobody connects to my other page or they don’t go to my website and then click on it, how will they see it?  If my only option is to then buy ad space on Facebook, then who will click on it if they don’t know me?  Isn’t it redundant for someone on my web site to then click and see my business Facebook so they can then click again to go back to my web site?  It really makes no sense when, as a web designer, I see that it can’t increase “clicks” that are meaningful.  I wish it could.  Maybe they will roll out a new platform and fix this, somehow.  I can’t help but believe that Google or even WordPress is ahead of them on this.  Also, eventually everything will be “liked” by someone and then nobody will “like” anything anymore.

Facebook built a huge momentum of audience, customers if you will, who have subscribed, added their photos, and connected to their high school buddies.  What’s next with this?  The momentum says and feels like there should be more.  I doubt that gaming will last, and I don’t think Facebook has any business muscle currently in place to help business owners develop their online platforms.  I want to see more.  Will it be video?  Will it be customization (ala WordPress and others)?  Will Google or some other storm in with a new platform and blow Facebook out of history?

Sometimes an idea is a good business idea, and other times it’s just a one-off item that makes some money for a bit and then becomes stamped out as a feature on a different device.  A great example is TiVo which many people wanted to own because they could see that it would be great to record shows and watch them when they have time.  It made lots of sense to users.  In reality TiVo is like a light switch in your house, just another feature of convenience.  The stock fell and has been flat-lined for a decade.

Will Facebook become all we hear it hyped up to be, or will it become just another light switch, just a bubble, one of many, in the effervescence of the ether?