Facebook is big but it’s certainly not cool. Here’s why that’s a good thing.
There’s been a lot of talk in the press about what Facebook needs to do to stay relevant and build on the fantastic job they’ve done of bringing nearly one billion people onto their platform. Mobile is a big one, working out if they can become a discovery platform, fine tuning that awful search function is another big one and staying true to their hacking culture is also something they’ll need to do. Loads to be cracking on with...
Another warning that many people regularly shoot their way is that they need to stay cool. My colleague, Duncan Parry recently wrote that this might be their weakness…
‘I'm not cool - and neither is Facebook. That might, just might, be their Achilles heel - declining usage from the generation that shot them to their current heights.’
It’s not just Duncan who believes that Facebook needs to stay cool. Brian Solis weighed in with his thoughts on the platform’s future as well:
‘To compete for the future starts with competing for relevance. In almost every business interview I’ve conducted about Facebook, I’m asked whether or not Facebook is “cool” anymore. Facebook chose to host an all-night hackathon rather than throw the usual rooftop party made popular in the days of Web 1.0. I guess in its own way, Facebook is trying to stay cool, or more importantly, stay true.’
Now I think there is a difference between staying relevant and being cool. The weather app on my iPhone is totally relevant to my sun seeking lifestyle (seeking it out in London). Is it cool? No. That doesn’t see me hunting around for a version of it that is pushing weather reporting to new and exciting boundaries.
Facebook doesn’t need to be cool. It doesn’t want to be cool. It actively works towards to the total opposite every single day. Facebook want to become an essential part of your life. Something you don’t need to think about. Something so useful, you’ll never want to leave it.
They still have to stay relevant. That’s why they’ll acquire companies like Karma and Instagram and transfer over the relevant talent. So you’ll essentially always be getting the best experience. But they won’t be seeking cool points. They won’t be going for a site refresh every five minutes. They won’t be deviating wildly from the path they’ve so successfully taken. They’ll evolve with the times, staying true to what made them the beast they are today.
Facebook is the essential tool for keeping up to date with what you’re friends are doing online. The platform isn’t cool, seeing what ALL your friends are doing is. Facebook also tie you in by making your life easier elsewhere on the web. Your Facebook login details allow you to comment on other sites, it allows you to sign up to new sites in seconds rather than minutes, it is effectively your online passport. A verification tool. A massive, massive time saver.
Who knows where this will go in the future, maybe you verify your identity with your bank details, or your actual passport. It could eventually allow you to sign up for utility services or perhaps allow you to vote at the elections. Who knows!
Anyway, the point remains, Facebook doesn’t need to stay cool to survive. Cool things have a shelf life. See MySpace. Things that fundamentally change how a global community communicates only need to continue to stay true to their values to survive. That’s no easy challenge, but it’s one that has far more substance and longevity.