In the great social war, it's Facebook against many

09.06.2013 04:16

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-
founder and chief executive, during
a Facebook press event in Menlo
Park, California in early 2013.Sorry, Facebook -- but it's time to
change our relationship status to
"It's complicated." While the Home
of the Poke still retains a billion-
strong user base, people are
starting to use it less, divvying up
their interactions and uploads, and
all kinds of apps and services
benefit as Facebook's hotness
It used to be that we used
Facebook to schedule parties, trade
phone numbers, find old
classmates, keep in touch with
distant family members, share
photos and generally opine. Now
there are other ways to share
photos and thoughts -- and to
connect with one another. Tumblr,
Instagram, Google+ Hangouts,
WhatsApp, SnapChat and others are
luring people away from the
convenience of Facebook's one-
stop shop.
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Part of the reason may be, well,
your mom.
Facebook's full house
"It's hard to imagine any social
space being forever cool once
everyone is there," Danah Boyd, a
senior researcher at Microsoft
Research, who focuses on young
people and social media, told NBC
News. "It's all about hanging out
with your friends in a place that's
fun to explore without also having
to put up with your great aunt's
sense of humor and little sister's
inappropriate comments."
Such a shift isn't exactly
unprecedented. MySpace's downfall
could be considered a recent
example, and let's not forget about
AOL Instant Messenger, LiveJournal,
Friendster and the other proto-
social nets. Do you remember
thinking you couldn't live without
AIM? It was great ... right up until
your grandma started IMing you
links to Snopes articles.
"For a while, consolidation made
sense," Boyd acknowledged. Yet
while teens aren't exactly deleting
their Facebook profiles en masse
now, she said, "they are exploring
other spaces."
"I don't see -- at this point -- signs
of a platform that has yet reached
the dominance that we have with
Facebook, but I think that folks are
starting to compartmentalize more
and use different platforms for
different functions," Mary Madden
-- a senior researcher for the Pew
Research Center's Internet &
American Life Project -- told NBC
"We did hear again and again about
the need to have a presence on
Facebook," she said, referring to
the focus groups conducted as part
of her research. "But other tools
and other platforms are starting to
attract teens for a variety of
"I am basically dividing things up,"
a 16-year-old girl who took part in
the Pew focus groups said.
"Instagram is mostly for pictures.
Twitter is mostly for just saying
what you are thinking. Facebook is
both of them combined so you
have to give a little bit of each."Snapchat, an app which allows
users to share self-destructing
videos and messages, is seeing a lot
of growth.The shift to mobile
Teens live and breathe through
their phones nowadays. And now,
according to survey results
released by the Pew Research
Center in early 2013 , over a third
of them have smartphones. There,
Facebook becomes just one of the
many apps competing for their
greasy finger taps.
Snapchat, a service that lets people
send images or videos which self-
destruct after 10 seconds, is a
good example of an app benefiting
from the most recent shift in social
interest. In April, Snapchat
reported 150 million "snaps" -- or
messages -- per day, up from just
20 million in October 2012. (By
comparison, there are now about
350 million new images uploaded
to Facebook daily.)
Twitter's Vine, an app which allows
users to record and share six-
second videos, can count nearly
eight percent of U.S.-based iPhone
owners as active users, according
to an annual Internet trends report
from Kleiner Perkins Caufield &
Byers partner Mary Meeker.
WhatsApp, a messaging app, had
over 200 million active users as of
April, its CEO revealed during the
AllThingsD Dive Into Mobile
conference. Despite the fact that
Facebook acquired Instagram, the
app -- which reached enormous
popularity before it ever had a
website -- is typically viewed as an
independent entity. It currently has
100 million active users, who
upload about 40 million photos per
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With smartphone apps, teens
explore new spaces "with more
emotional energy and enthusiasm
because of the various ways that
these new tools allow them to
connect, share and socialize," Boyd
told NBC News.
More importantly, she said, app
experiences can be fleeting and
light-hearted. It's a stark contrast
to the drama involved when
someone forges a more permanent
"friend" bond on Facebook -- only
to later sever it with a click.
Beyond Facebook
Meeker's report shows a jump in
the percentage of people who say
that, in 2012, they used YouTube,
Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn,
Pinterest, MySpace (yes, really),
Instagram and Foursquare. At the
same time, Facebook saw a little
"Some of these sites are built to
support and extend networks and
others are really focused on
sharing content and not so much
on network extension," Pew's
Madden said, remarking that it's
difficult to even properly explain
what a "social media" site or app is
at this point.
As the definition of "social media"
loosens, so does Facebook's grip on
the masses -- especially as people
seek to recapture the lighthearted
fun which drove them online in the
first place.
"On Facebook, people imply things
and say things, even just by a like,
that they wouldn't say in real life,"
a 14-year-old who took part in a
Pew focus group explained.
"Facebook can be fun, but also it's
drama central."