Facebook has come a long way from its beginnings as essentially an online student directory for a handful of colleges. In the almost fifteen years since its inception, it has managed to build an audience like no other platform in history, now measured at two billion active monthly users, and it has done so by consistently broadening the scope of its efforts and the functionality of its network.
In a world where currently one in five online page views is estimated to be on Facebook–and with the company expanding both its native offerings and its catalog of acquisitions on a seemingly daily basis–we may need to ask ourselves, does the future of the Internet look entirely like Facebook?
Think of all the ways you and your friends commonly use Facebook now. It has long surpassed Evite and other email-based invitation sites as the easiest and most used way to distribute details about social gatherings and manage RSVP lists. We use it to store and share photo albums and home videos, organize social interest groups, and play games. Over three-fifths of Americans obtain some amount of their news from the social network.
It is becoming de rigueur for businesses to maintain a presence on social networks, especially Facebook as it has transformed itself into an online yellow pages, replete with information about the company (or individual location) and its services, contact details, reviews, and an avenue for customer service.
Brands can take this even further with the platform’s exhaustive tools for tracking and targeting its Page followers, in order to deliver expertly crafted ads to the exact right eyes to view them.
While not taking off as successfully as may have been hoped, Facebook’s shots at Snapchat (Stories), Slack (Workplace), and Craigslist (Marketplace) show a company willing to experiment with expanding into any online market in order to capture more audience share and more of that audience’s overall time.
Instant Articles have also been a mixed bag, being readily adopted by some publishers, and less so by others, with varying amounts of success shown across the spectrum.
Facebook has even delved into the more emotionally charged side of community by enabling Safety Checks during natural disasters and other calamities. Add this to its recent integration of fundraising, threatening to take away from established players like YouCaring and GoFundMe with seamless integration into one’s social profile, and we can see that even altruism, concern, and compassion are deemed worthy products for the network.
The amount of resources, in both time and money, they’ve invested over the last couple of years into video (regular, live, and 360), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) show that they are dedicated to being on the cutting edge of technology as it relates to personal communication and connection.
Their recent announcements about venturing into hardware creation and production display a willingness to try anything (and everything) to remain at the top of the game, and to continually work to secure their place there.
Critics say that Facebook will never be able to compete with Google as far as straight search is concerned, and perhaps they’re correct. Google has both an incredible head start in that direction, and is able to more greatly focus its efforts on providing valuable search results to its users.
With increasing advancements in machine learning, voice search, and artificial intelligence (AI), Google is certainly a difficult rival to compete with in the search game, as Bing and other search engines already know. But that doesn’t mean that Facebook isn’t trying to circumvent that, by making everything you might want to search for readily available within its framework, and with social correlations to boot.
So, does the future of the Internet look entirely like Facebook? There will likely be outside sites for Facebook to point at (and search engines to locate them) for some time yet, but it seems wholly possible that Facebook will attempt to keep redesigning and reconfiguring their network and popular usages so that it is easier and more advantageous for businesses, brands, and other organizations to have their online presence wholly within Facebook and its affiliates.
Only time will tell how it will all play out, but in the meantime, any marginally successful platform offering something that Facebook currently does not should watch their back, and get their affairs in order.
Author Bio: Andrew E. is a digital marketing specialist at Josiesque Designs in Austin, Texas. He works with businesses to improve their web presence. He also enjoys spending time researching & writing articles related to the industry of search engines, social, & web development; to help improve not only himself but other fellow digital marketers as well.