By Tom Walters
Remember MySpace? You know, that big, friendly online place where we bragged about what bands we liked, whilst decorating our pages with glitter and trinkets. Now fast forward to the present day; what do you hear about it nowadays? That's right, not a sausage.
MySpace, despite it's recent relaunch, has fallen by the social network wayside like an old Ford Mondeo abandoned in the scrapyard. Facebook on the other hand has become nothing short of a cultural revolution, with world domination seemingly not only plausible, but almost guaranteed right? Wrong.
The Guardian has reported that, in the last two months alone, Facebook has lost over nine million users in the US and more than two million users in the UK. These are shocking statistics, especially for a company that as recently as six months ago, seemed to be heading to a point where its tentacles would reach every user with internet access, and stay there. What has happened to this phenomenon? Are people bored of it? Or are times changing so rapidly that Zuckerberg's baby has already aged?
Let's face it, if the unthinkable did happen and Facebook made a staggering fall from grace then it's not exactly like Zuckerberg would be out of pocket. As well as his vast personal wealth, Facebook's purchase of Instagram, this time last year, looks increasingly like a great bit of business. With 30million users and counting, the photo-sharing site gives an indication of the changing nature of how we interact with social media.
Alternative social network sites like Instagram and Path are becoming increasingly popular, especially among younger audiences. Instagram gives users the ability to paint their lives in a shimmering, filtered ray of light, even if, as is usually the case, their lives are just as mundane as the rest of us. Path is gaining a million users a week, with people attracted, amongst other reasons, to its limit of 150 friends; meaning no more irrelevant status updates from that friend of a friend about his gran's birthday day out in Leeds.
People are looking for simplicity, but are also beginning to want to move away from what is perceived as an increasingly boring concept. As one young man I spoke to simply put it, "People don't want to know about Geoff's dog or what breakfast that guy you once met in the SU had this morning". Times are a-changing.
With a growing audience in places like South America and a large, virtually untapped, Indian market in which to develop, Facebook's future is far from bleak. But if the reports are correct and the site continues to lose users in markets where it is currently established, it will need to evolve quickly. Poor and confusing privacy rights, unwanted advertising and an outdated interface, are all problems that Facebook needs to address, if they are to stop what is beginning to look like a slowly sinking ship.