During the film The Social Network, a film based around the start-up of Facebook, there is a moment of realisation from Mark Zuckerberg that the key to creating a successful network is exclusivity.
Fast forward six years and Facebook has evolved from being a campus contained network to one housing 500 million people worldwide in multiple languages (even pirate!). With ongoing privacy wrangles, it features all the intimacy and exclusivity of a busy high street on a Saturday afternoon.
According to some, Facebook are at a crossroads; will it further establish itself and become to social media what Google is to search or Amazon to internet retailing? Or will it find itself a victim of a mass exodus of people wanting to stay on top of what’s alternative and cool? Maybe what is thought is all irrelevant.
Many at Silicon Valley are calling social media the biggest revolution in technology since the Netscape and Internet Explorer allowed us to cyber surf, and believe Facebook are the front-runners, the pioneers. And with £160 million being pumped into social media start-ups (with Facebook themselves making a sizeable contribution) by the same venture capitalists behind Google and Amazon, it is difficult to see Facebook not succeeding.
Zuckerberg himself said every industry could be revolutionised by social media – Online gaming, music and retail – being the obvious trendsetters of such advances. The latest version of iTunes, for example, has a social network feature – Ping! – enabled, while Spotify has many-a-social media option. The future is seemingly the ability to express, in real-time, what people you trust like and dislike, buy and don’t buy, and thus behave accordingly. If you are siding with this school of thought, Facebook becomes your main gateway to the internet.
So, the alternatives to Facebook; Twitter has momentum but is confined by its own limitations, when compared to Facebook, though this does have its advantages. LinkedIn is the network of choice for professionals and business contacts, but is otherwise a bit dry. Mixcloud and Soundwave are fantastic for music streamers and sharers but are specialist and niche.
My money is on Google. Already fears are growing within Google HQ that Facebook will soon are already mapping the internet based on users likes and dislikes and data, to rival its own engine.
Perhaps the first big step into the future came a few weeks back, as Facebook and Microsoft’s Bing came together. Now on Bing, when you enter a search query, you can discover what your friend network from Facebook liked/disliked about whatever it was you searched for.
As social networks become more common-place, established and ‘the norm’, exclusivity issues fly out of the window.