Posted January 27, 2010 7:26 am by with 9 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Facebook is getting to the level of ubiquity that is only afforded a few things in this life. It seems as if everyone is on the service to one degree or another. If someone is not on it they have heard about it and have likely gotten some ribbing about not being involved. Very few people leave (although a friend of mine recently did because he felt like he understood “how it worked” so when his kids are ready to get on it he can monitor it. I tried to explain the whole innovation and change thing but he wouldn’t hear it). Many are so entrenched that there is the idea that the service is “locked in” to the fabric of life and will continue to do so more and more.

An article from Reuters plays this out by talking to a 21 year old college student about Facebook and its role in life in general

Tech-savvy Alyssa Ravasio, a 21-year-old UCLA student designing her undergraduate degree around the Internet’s impact on society and communication, is irked by changes privately owned Facebook has made.

But for now, she says, Facebook is keeping her allegiance because of a concept called “technological lock-in.” In other words, the site has become an essential part of her life.

“I think Facebook is the most valuable Internet commodity in existence, more so than Google, because they are positioning themselves to be our online identity via Facebook connect,” Ravasio said.

“It’s your real name, it’s your real friends, and assuming they manage to navigate the privacy quagmire, they’re poised to become your universal login,” she said. “I would almost argue that Facebook is the new mobile phone. It’s the new thing you need to keep in touch, almost a requirement of modern social life.”

I personally don’t take it nearly to this degree but I am older and did not “grow up” with Facebook. Many would read the above statements and feel some remorse at this level of dependence on a technology and the redefinition of being a friend etc etc. In this case you can’t stop ‘progress’ but we also don’t need to be married to it either.

The article talks about how people get so used to doing something that it just becomes the norm even if it is imperfect. The example is used of the QWERTY keyboard. While over time there have been better designs for keyboards the design of the QWERTY is so ingrained in our lives that we don’t even know the difference or care to see it change.

So is there anything standing in the way of Facebook continuing to move toward a level of dominance in the Internet world? For a while people thought MySpace was a lock but we know what direction that took. The major issue appears to be profitability and what it might take to get there. Since the site can’t be run as a public service forever it provides the one likely area that it could truly stub its toe and open the door for the ‘next big thing’. We hear more from the subject of the article that highlights this notion

Ravasio says that, technological lock-in aside, Facebook could potentially lose her if it keeps annoying her, as it did when it abruptly changed a default privacy setting so that members’ pictures were public.

“All these (Internet) companies saying they’ll figure out how to monetize later seem to be forgetting that ‘monetizing’ has historically always meant a degradation of user experience quality,” she said.

Insightful? That’s to be determined. One thing is for sure though there are users of the service that talk about being locked in but have shown that there is little loyalty in most other areas of their lives due to too many options. Could one come along that could knock Facebook off its perch or is it becoming more like Google with each passing day?

Your thoughts?

  • I don’t think Facebook itself is a lock – not yet. The major roadblock I see with Facebook getting to be a lock on society is the simple fact that they seem to have such an apathetic approach to listening to customers concerns over privacy.

    I remember when Facebook first started, and everyone on campus was joining, frequently making comments about how it was so much better than MySpace because people couldn’t stalk you as easily. Facebook is back-tracking from its original grouped networks idea. This is for multiple reasons that have been discussed multiple times over last several years, but I think the most recent catalyst has been Twitter. Zuckerberg is jealous of Twitter’s success – and fearful of its potential to damage Facebook.

    Facebook connect is a powerful idea, and definitely one of the things that could propel Facebook into the ‘lock’ position, but that is still just an idea in my mind – I tend to be a fairly early adopter, and I’m still hesitant to use it as it still feels clunky to me.

    There is no argument that Facebook is powerful – they’ve even surpassed Google on traffic numbers on recent holidays. However, just like MySpace fell hard, Facebook still has that potential to.

  • We’re locked-in to Facebook.

    Really that big change from private to open should have been done at the start, so it was more like Facebook fixing a mistake than making a radical change.

    That said, depending on how creepy their advertising gets, you might see people get turned off and only use it to connect to other networks. In which case, they won’t be able to monetize successfully because advertisers will eventually catch on that people are just using Facebook to log-into other things.

    The truth is, the only disruption coming on the horizon is localization and video, and Facebook is already built to capitalize on both those things.
    .-= Brandon Mendelson´s last blog ..Paranormal Cattivity And Its Use In Psychological Warfare =-.

  • Ricdesan

    This is far from a Lock-in for Facebook! The hyper local niche focus of interest based social networks has yet to be developed fully and they will hold considerable sway with users that are less than thrilled with the one size fits all facebook paradigm. Could FB be a hub? Certainly! Will they be another ‘vintage’ AOL-like entrance point to the web? Absolutely not! Localization across community whether it be physical or interest based, will be the big equalizer for the FB phenom. Like Shawn Fanning once said when being questioned about Internet tech “Again Its Adapt Or Die.” FB is no more immune to that then Myspace was.

  • Pingback: StevieB’s Shared Items – January 28, 2010 | LostInCyberspace()

  • Pingback: Around The Interwebs with (jeff)isageek – January 27th | (jeff)

  • I think people are pretty locked into Facebook because so many parts of their lives are on it (photos, feelings, friends, conversations with friends, etc.). That’s a really hard thing to let go of. If a Facebook user signs off, they’ll be losing all of this.

    Being part of the class of Facebook users from the beginning, I also have so many friends on Facebook that are from high school, college and from past jobs. It’s so easy to keep in contact with them since I’m friends with all of them on Facebook. If I were to leave Facebook, I’d be losing this huge network, which for me is a huge loss. There are soo many opportunities that may come up with such a big network, why would I want to leave Facebook?

    In order to get Facebook users to move onto something else, there has to be some revolutionary website that will make everyone want to change over. Obviously, it would probably be a slow change. But even so, I think Facebook will still be used because of the network.

    But…if somehow the transition between websites could be easier, I think a new website could entirely be possible.

  • I don’t think people are fully locked to facebook yet but, they quite close unless other social media, or web based apps intervenes soon to make facebook users switch. But even if there’s such a possibility, such a change is going to be very slow, and I think that at least 90 percent of facebook users who are likely to be convinced to switch, they are likely to still use facebook and other.

    From my experience, facebook is powerful and it keeps getting better and better. If you speak to someone who is into social media, he/she’s like to laugh at you if you say that you don’t have facebook. Well, facebook is even a verb now — ever heard of people say, “I facebooked you”?.

  • I would have to agree that facebook is such a lock!!!! Everyone kept nagging me to join, so I finally did, but now it is tough to leave, but I really do want to! AHHHHHHHH…..facebook, you trap you.
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Bridgestone Motorcycle Tires =-.

  • Facebook is so ingrained in our society and online life that people will use it for many years. The traffic and membership base may dip over time from newer sites coming out but I think it’s positioned itself to be this behemoth of a social platform.
    .-= ppc tips´s last blog ..Google AdSense Recently Interpreted as Malware =-.