Defending a poor, helpless Facebook

The discussion and uproar continues: “the Facebook era is over.”

Thursday I linked to and commented on Why Facebook Is The New Yahoo by arguing it wasn’t over at all.

Now in listening to Sunday’s TWiT, at the 52:20 mark Leo Laporte launches in to lead another anti-Facebook charge that – to me – looks like pure bias and is grounded in very little truth.

He even conscripted panelist Loic Le Meur’s 14 year old son, Gautier, into an anecdotal interrogation that confirmed the identity of Facebook’s core business.

But it didn’t stop Laporte from voicing his displeasure of all the other stuff Facebook is bouncing off the public.

Laporte, in TWiT 319:

“I think Facebook is in peril. And I think the risk to them right now is getting so complicated and convoluted that they can make it very difficult for the core users like Gautier and my mom.”

My arguments for Facebook’s long-term success:

  1. Leading the pack – It’s not naive to think that 750 million users aren’t going to sign up someplace else. Facebook grew like it did because people like me convinced my non-tech friends and family that this was ‘it’. That it was the phonebook. If I go knocking on my neighbor’s door now or four years from now and tell them I want them to sign up some place else, they’ll laugh at me. It’ll take double the efforts to convince them – if convincing them is even possible. And it took four years to get them all to sign up for Facebook originally.
  2. Youth – Facebook succeeds because of it’s core. For half a decade, it has owned messaging within the youth market. As soon as you’re old enough for an account, Facebook is your email, IM and text messaging platform. As you get older and more professional, then things like Twitter and maybe even Google plus will come in to your life. But signing up for Facebook is what getting a social security card used to be. And everyone is doing it.
  3. Layers – For some, the outrage seems to be over this notion that Facebook is losing its vision by exploring new features (Skype, Subscribe, etc). Po – tay – to, po – innovation. It’s near-sighted to think that the Subscribe button is a mistake because of the logistical problems that have arrived with how it’ll integrate with Pages. The long-term vision is that Subscribe clears the path to finally have brands as Pages and people as Profiles. So when Facebook rolls out this or update that update, they are adding layers (hello, collaberative music) that may or may be successful. But the core model (messaging) is still there just in the same as it is with Google (search).

More Laporte:

“Facebook should stop adding all these crazy features and just focus on what brought them to the table – which is getting people laid.”

I hope Leo gets rid of his Gmail account, since it’s just a ‘crazy feature’ that distracts people from what brought them to Google in the first place.

So the argument is, Facebook’s core business model (people) doesn’t make money. Google makes money selling ads to fund everything else they do. And Facebook makes nothing off messaging and tries to use it to fund everything else.

Let’s say for a moment that is true. Even if you have 750 million people, any minute of the day you can find at least 100 of them (very conservatively) to do just about anything you want. Just once. The scope is just too big to ignore. There are so, so many users. You can take a 14 year Gautier who only chats with friends. But if he is convinced on Facebook just once to buy something that he otherwise would not have, you’ve got a business model if you’ve got 750 ga-million Gautiers as your LCD or baseline user.

So while the Google / Facebook comparison is a valid one, Facebook’s users don’t equate to Google’s ad network. Not at all.

Google crawls the web for free and then sells those results. And that’s their advantage. They crawl the web better than anyone else.
Facebook gives users free messaging and then sells all the extra layering. And they have a network of users that is better than anyone else’s.

Google -> all websites
Facebook -> all users

Sure there are challenges ahead. But the recent media onslaught is making it look a whole lot worse than it is. I can’t believe I’m defending Facebook, but it’s sticking around for a while.

As an aside, Alexia Tsotsis makes a good point about Facebook’s deficiency in events. There’s at least one start up (UNATION) that is about to go open to the public that is going to eat their lunch with events. And there are others, like Plancast, that really understand events better than Facebooks currently shows they do.