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Ben Hatton 500m users - and Facebook will keep growing.

IT WAS inevitable that Facebook would finally cross the milestone of 500m users worldwide.

This has led to critics predicting a fall from grace, as the inevitable conclusion of its journey to being the leading social networking site in every country in the world, save for Russia, China and Japan.

They point to the many sites born in the feverish hype of the dot com boom that have been left by the wayside, with Friends Reunited, Altavista and MySpace some of the notable victims on that list.

But it would take a brave man to bet against Facebook powering ahead onto further records.

Facebook's success is partly imitation - "standing on the shoulders of giants" of the initial internet era and learning from their errors.

But the site is one of the keenest innovators and shows no sign of slowing down.

Facebook Connect and the upcoming Facebook Credits are two examples which show that the company is not sitting pretty on its winning hand.

These innovations point towards Facebook breaking out of the social networking box and becoming an internet platform in its own right, in the same way Google is certainly much more than just a search engine.

The key aspect of this development is that it is always driven by the consumers of the site.

Mark Zuckerberg has successfully married the aims of its users with the aims of monetising that traffic, but is very clear that the lifeblood will always be the users - he has clearly learnt the lessons of its forerunners that to antagonise the people who frequent your site will inevitably lead to a catastrophic largescale defection. It must be acknowledged that Facebook's success has given rise to a debate about online privacy and information - a discussion that needs to take place.

But it appears to me that the tide is firmly in its favour and it will become a conversation that the next generation won't even have.

No doubt when we discuss Facebook's crossing of the 1bn people threshold we will have new predictions for where it will go, but for the time being its star is still in the ascendant.

CAPTION(S):

INTERNET entrepreneur Ben Hatton is founder and managing director of Liverpool agency Rippleffect
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 26, 2010
Words:371
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