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Is it possible to replace Facebook?

foto av Clay Shirky på en scene foran en håndskrevet plakat med teksten Facebook
Clay Shirky på Nordiske Mediedager Spesial 2011, foto Anders Hofseth, NRKbeta 2011 Creative Commons

According to internet expert Clay Shirky, Facebook is now so big it cannot be replaced by a competitor anymore.

This is an English language version of Er Facebook blitt uerstattelig? published yesterday.

When Clay Shirky visited Norway last week, I got the opportunity to interview him for the NRK P2 show Kurer. As I was prepping myself for the interview by reading his 2008 book Here Comes Everybody, this illustration caught my eye:

Expanding networks

Facsimile from Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, Kindle Edition Faksimile fra "Here Comes Everybody" av Clay Shirky (Kindle-utgaven)
Facsimile from Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, Kindle Edition
Faksimile fra «Here Comes Everybody» av Clay Shirky (Kindle-utgaven)

The point being that the number of connections between people expand significantly faster than the number of people. From 5 to 15 people is 3 times the people, but 10,5 times the connections.

The replacability of social networks

This casts light on something we’ve been discussing here at NRKbeta lately: Is it possible for Google+ or other services to replace Facebook, the way Facebook outmaneuvered MySpace way back when?

Say I were to leave Facebook for Google+. For that to be a success, my 400 Facebook friends (or at least those important to me) would have to come along as well. And their 400. And these people’s 400. Et Cetera.

That this could happen isn’t totally impossible, but it’s beginning to look less probable. The anchorage the number of connections between people represents, are several orders of magnitude over what MySpace had. A mass migration to a new platform is not a thing undertaken as a collective effort on a random Thursday. The effort each of us would have to undertake to start something resembling our Facebook-life today anew, on a new platform, is massive.

Facebook’s functions grow in number

When I see people around me starting to use the Facebook chat instead of the phone, I think were beginning to see a technological shift in society. We can see as well that several businesses are using Facebook as their main channel for relations to the public, because it is practical and effective. Maybe Facebook is on its way to becoming a long term monopoly, the way Bell Telephone Company and its successor AT&T controlled the US telephone network from its inception and the next hundred years.

What does that mean?

According to TNS Interbuss, 73 % of people here in Norway are using Facebook on a monthly basis. And we’ve seen that roughly 40 % of young people’s online time is spent at Facebook. Those are big numbers.

During the Q&A after Clay Shirky’s presentation at Nordiske Mediedager Spesial, I asked Clay Shirky what he thought the penetration of Facebook means. This is his answer:

We recommend watching these three minutes of video. For the restless, the ultra short version goes something like: Shirky previously thought Facebook could be replaced by a competitor. He can’t see anymore how that could come about. And he doesn’t seem all that happy about this.

9 kommentarer

  1. Forslag: når dere har artikler på engelsk, hva med å ha viktige navigasjonselementer, info om kommentering, etc. på engelsk også? Kanskje det også er mulig å linke utelukkende til andre artikler skrevet på engelsk på høyre side.

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