Has Facebook jumped the shark?

    by Mark Glaser
    September 28, 2006

    The popular college and high school social networking site Facebook has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The site introduced a controversial “news feeds” feature that allowed people to see what their friends had been doing lately online, leading to thousands of users signing a petition saying they opposed the feature. Facebook relented and allowed people to opt out of the feature. But then the service decided to change from being a closed community of college and high school communities, and become a more open service where anyone could sign up for geographic-oriented communities. Has the service lost its way and “jumped the shark” (meaning it’s passed its prime)? If you are a longtime user, are you going to stay with Facebook or try another service? What do you like about it, and what turns you off about it? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and I’ll run the best responses in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: comments facebook
    • It’s funny that you mention this today, as I had a “facebook” moment that likely answers your question. With about 15 minutes left in a college class this morning, I decided to let the students work on an upcoming assignment, or finish working on a project that is due Tuesday (the class meets in a computer lab). No sooner had I invited them to work on their assignments than one of them had turned around and logged in to Facebook.

      Even after all the controversy, I’ve watched several times as different students have logged into Facebook in the background while they are supposed to be working on a class project.

      I suspect there is some part of the cognoscenti who will abandon FB, but many will continue to use it as always.

    • It depends on how you look at it. Facebook initially became popular because it was both a serious tool and a fairly cool thing to have. In my opinion, Facebook was able to undercut or compete with Myspace fairly well due to this (at least with the college student demographic).

      In all honesty, Facebook has run out of sharks to jump, and appears to be on the hunt for lesser creatures. You have my permission to use the phrase “Facebook jumped the shark many times, but jumping the salmon is what finally did them in” if the time comes.

      It used to be that when Facebook came up in converstations, “Why haven’t you joined yet?” was the said to the invariable hold out. Now the converstation revolves around how facebook has become stalker-net. At one time, saying facebook is a stalker-net was usually part-joke, part attack on the people who use Facebook to do stalking-like behavior.

      With the additions of the news feeds, Facebook drastically changed its purpose. It went from an useful service to get basic information on other people to attempting to supplement or replace parts of people’s social life.

      Opening Facebook to the general public has not seen much resistance (at least not nearly on par with the News Feed feature). It does, however, eliminate the feeling of being part of a closed, selective crowd. Pretty much eliminates most of the remaining coolness factor.

      The flip side is that jumping the shark doesn’t work the same way for websites as it does for TV shows and the like. The main thing Facebook has going for it at this point is its extensive user base. I believe this is the main reason it will continue to survive (even thrive). Popular websites really don’t die off overnight. How many years has Netscape.com survived, despite its almost complete worthlessness? Facebook, however, is begging to be undercut by a simular service that has greater dedication to its userbase. Plenty of cool sounding unclaimed 8 letter domain names exist.

      In the end, sites/companies such as Craig’s List and Google will survive due to their dedication to users.

    • Opening it up to the universe isn’t what will fuel Facebook’s demise. Complicating it with new features every two days and requiring users to get used to a new layout and new bells and whistles all the time is what will likely frustrate current Facebook-ers into sticking to something that is more predictable.

      It may have hopped in anticipation of the shark, but the truth is, Facebook is still superpopular and if Facebookers get annoyed, they’ll just voice their opinions rather than stop using it.

      At least I think that’s what will happen. As a wise man (LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow) once said, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

    • Ina

      I’m originally from Norway, but throughout the years I’ve been on exchange a couple of times; the first time was in high school when I went to the U.S., and the second time this past semester, when I went to New Zealand. It was in NZ one of my friends asked me to join Facebook. It seemed like an easy way to keep in touch with my international friends once we all returned home, so I did. Once in I don’t just keep in touch with my NZ friends – I’ve also found and reunited with heaps of my old high school friends from the U.S. – quite a few people whom I haven’t talked to since 2003. So I’m stoked!

      That being said, I wasn’t fond of the new over-informative Facebook, and that people could find out so much about your Facebook activity, but hey, that’s 2006 for ya! When the Facebook crew made it possible I opted out the feature and now I’m one happy camper.

      I don’t know how my American friends feel, but I actually like that Facebook is available for everyone. Now my Norwegian friends can join – along with the exchange students from New Zealand who didn’t sign up for Facebook while we were there (and lost the opportunity when their NZ Uni e-mail was deleted).

      I’ll be using Facebook as long as my friends are, just because it’s ties everyone together in the jungle of services. I’ve had accounts/blogs on everything from MySpace to Hi5 and Ringo. But so far there’s no service which is being used by more of my (international) friends than Facebook. A lot of people have separate blogs (maybe even MySpaces) but Facebook seems to be what everyone has in common. At least thus far.

      I’m not surprised if something new and supposedly better is right around the corner, but I hope it’s not, I wish people could just stay in one place. I’m so tired of creating accounts everywhere.

      Facebook jumped the shark? I dunno. All I know is they’re still swimming. And I like it.

    • Elisa

      Thank God Facebook is finally open to the general public. I’ve had accounts on Facebook, Friendster, and MySpace for the past few years–not because I’m overly fond of “social networking,” (my Sociology professor would cringe at my use of the term), but because I couldn’t find just one of them that could hold everyone I know. Facebook is, hands down, the best of the bunch, with a really user-friendly interface and–though I know there are those who complain about them–a ton of great features, from the “Wall” that allows you to post public notes to your friends (and read what their other friends have posted), to the “Messages” feature that lets you contact them privately, the new “Notes” feature that acts as a sort of Facebook-blog and allows you to “tag” your friends (so they’ll get an alert that they’re in your note and know to read it), and my personal favorite–though I was thoroughly against it when it was first introduced–the “Events” feature that allows you to make an announcement for a party, club meeting, or other event and invite your friends. My roommates and I are having a party next weekend and the “Official” invitation is on Facebook–so for us at least, the opening up to the general population of the Facebook site was perfectly timed. I have a lot of friends who didn’t go to college, or who went to community colleges or very small schools that didn’t give out .edu addresses, or who have been out of college just long enough not to have a .edu address anymore. Now I can finally delete my other accounts and consolidate my “social networking” (sorry, Prof. Gold)–not that everyone I know has signed up for Facebook already, but at least they can, now. I never have to go on MySpace again! Take that, Rupert Murdoch!

    • Lee Main

      i wish that i could do something that could change the world as much as all the other people that i either met or heard about

    • Ged

      Facebook hasn’t jumped the shark, but it has acted as a catalyst for mature discussion and consideration on privacy issues by young people.

      Whilst Facebook through its move is an acknowledgement that social networks are not soully age or occupation (if student or scholar is an occupation), the backlash indicated young people hadn’t an answer to deal with a more transparent online society that is taking place around it.

      Ultimately what will kill face book is fashion and time like hypercolor t-shirts, dungerees and kaftans. However social networking is bigger than any one brand.

    • I asked the same question of my blog readers in the post (coincidentally named) “Has Facebook Jumped the Shark?

      The overwhelming response is “no” from both marketers and casual users. However, the ‘early adopters’ seem to be ready for a new face of social media. Many feel it will be Google which will topple the Facebook giant.

      Time (and the public) will tell…

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