This is not another post about the Facebook Terms of Service (TOS) debacle. Well it is, sort of, but the TOS is not my focus. This is about my prediction that we've now entered the era of Facebook's slow decline.
In case you've been too busy worrying about your taxes two months early, I'll recap what happened this week. At the beginning of February, Facebook updated their Terms of Service (TOS). Websites do this all the time. They wrote a blog post about some of the changes, but they failed to mention a major one. This week The Consumerist, a consumer-rights focused blog, wrote about a major change in how Facebook treats the content (words, images, video, etc.) members post to the site. In sum, they were essentially claiming the rights to use those things any way they wished, in perpetuity, even if a member were to delete their account.
Facebook responded, but not very well.
This morning, though, Facebook announced that they've reverted their TOS to the before-change version while they work on revising it to reflect what their needs are, and to allow for member feedback as they go. They've started a group called “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” to facilitate the discussion.
This, friends, is why I think their happy days are over.
Bill of Rights and Responsibilities? What are they, a committee of bureaucrats whose election coffers are filled with corporate money and who are trying to give their constituents the impression they're more important than the rich corporations? Because that's what it means when a So-and-so Bill of Rights starts being drafted. It's what we call it when we want to give people with little power the impression they're being heard. Or, at the least, it's what people who aren't at all comfortable being honest with their customers call it when they want to give the impression they're listening.
I'm getting a little high-minded here, and it's not only the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that signals the demise of Facebook to me. It's only a speck in the larger picture. The larger picture being that Facebook has achieved saturation. There are now at least three generations of people on there, and that means that soon the young people will come up with a new place to call their own. That's nature. The stupid Facebook apps that were all the rage a year and a half ago are now just annoying. The site is impossible to navigate. Reconnecting with people we've known from bygone eras has been fun, but we've been there done that, and isn't email still the best and easiest way to stay in touch (long form) with friends online?
The reason this TOS fiasco signals what I think will be the site's demise is that if I were clever and a programmer and knew some great designers, I'd be fed up enough with Facebook to whip something together that would make me happy. It's how Facebook started and then managed to kill Myspace. It's inevitable, and I think Facebook has just provided a whole lot of potential inspiration to anyone who's willing and able to take it and run. Or, well. Maybe nothing will take its place. Even still, I'm pretty sure the great ship is starting to take on water.
Facebook's numbers may continue to increase for a while as more and more boomers join up, but the kids and/or the young adults will find someplace new to hang out. Someplace simpler, with less annoyance, and with a team behind it that speaks frankly and freely about how they run things and why.