How will Facebook die?

Note: This article was first written in July 2018, and has since been updated…because more bad things have happened at Facebook in just the last three months

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash

Facebook is huge. Like Huge. It’s almost quite literally the big blue whale of social media, i.e. the biggest thing in the ocean. Despite other creatures and threats, it has no true predator. And like Pinocchio, all 2.23 billion of us users are just along for the ride in the whale’s belly.

But our big blue fish is having a blue old time. First came the Russian meddling and Cambridge Analytica scandals, then a massive drop in stock price. That was followed by a self purge of over 600 accounts with “inauthentic behavior”. And finally, as of this weekend, it might be fined billions for exposing 50 million users’ data, in full violation of the GDRP. Oh wait one more — the Instagram founders left, citing the Facebook team’s imposition as a major reason.

And that’s just 2018.

Remember in 2016 when they misled all their advertisers about their true analytics? Yeah. There’s a history here.

Each time one of these scandals occur, tons of articles titled “is this the end for Facebook??” show up (kind of like this one you’re reading).Yet, it’s still here. But for how long?

Many unforeseen factors could affect Facebook’s health in the near future, and their financial foray into “other technology” does not guarantee results.

So for the hell of it, I’ve speculated on what may eventually kill Facebook. And attached each one to betting odds. Please note: these predictions are largely for fun, so please don’t go out and short the stock based solely on my fantasy here.

Here we go:

People migrate to a new social network (ODDS 10000:1)

Remember Ello? How about Peach? Each of these were touted as “the Facebook slayer”.

This won’t happen. Would you actually close your Facebook and Instagram accounts, just to then use a completely different medium for the exact same thing? Are you really going to add all your high school friends to that same network? No.

It took us years to build what we have now on Facebook, Instagram, and What’s App. We are not about to move all that elsewhere, learn a whole new platform, and add our friends again. The great human social network experiment can only run its course once, and we’re pretty much done that race. Facebook won.

Snapchat came close to challenging, but people didn’t “get” it. Plus, Facebook swallowed up its capabilities, and Snap’s other attempts to stay relevant (i.e. Spectacles) never picked up.

Typically, when consumers are unhappy with a service provider, they can simply switch to a competitor. But in Facebook’s case, they either own the other providers, or have simply found ways to destroy them. So you can’t just leave Facebook and switch to Telus.

Plus, Facebook is free. Instagram is free. Never forget that.

Amazon buys Facebook (900:1)

I mean really…why not? We’ve seen unimaginable mergers in the past, specifically in the media business, so what’s to stop this from happening in the next few years?Imagine a Facebook-Amazon integration. Imagine Amazon with all that data.

Disney bought Fox, and the WWF (now WWE) bought WCW way back. Anything is possible.

But not for a while.

The stock withers and dies (500:1)

I am not a financial analyst. But facebook’s stock growth (it opened at $42 and peaked at $209) has been fuelled by the perfect blend of ad revenue growth and user growth. But now the latter has stagnated, placing the former in doubt.

So if users stop growing, and ad revenue stops growing, does the stock go up, down, or stay the same?

It all comes down to one factor: innovation. Facebook has been upping its original content game. Will it pivot its platform into something else? Will it kill the newsfeed? Will it launch more internet satellites? Whatever direction it goes next, there’s no guarantee there. The future is unknown.

Some economists predict the stock will drop to $90 by 2020.

The government shuts it down (100:1)

Lawmakers were completely clueless when they interviewed Zuckerberg this past summer. It felt like a bad SNL sketch where old baby boomers try to understand what their millennial son does for work.

And personally, I do think that policy will struggle to keep up with technology. Just wait until the Facebook of blockchain arrives. Then the party will really start.

But there is still just-cause for governments to regulate Facebook, especially as it continues to prove its data-management ineptitude. Many government bodies already monitor social media extensively, and you could argue that we are just one more election-level issue away from a potential shutdown or severe dismemberment of social networks.

Would it be insane for someone to campaign on this type of promise? Could a politician call for closing down all facebook advertising, or restricting it to only people with social insurance numbers that match their country of origin?

So, what will really happen?

Honestly — I don’t know. The next scandal could be so massive that it forces Zuckerberg to resign. Or even worse, forces him to break up Facebook’s wealth of assets, and sell off something like Instagram. I would bet my chips on the last option — that government regulation does catch up and Facebook becomes massively regulated.

Whenever Facebook dies though, I can assure you — it will affect many many people.

Facebook economics are not just about Facebook. There are thousands of other companies built around its proliferation. Think of the apps (Eventbrite), platforms (Hootsuite), and businesses (your cousin who makes custom couch pillows) that live and thrive off Facebook.

For now, it remains the big blue whale of the social media ocean. Many other living things live and eat off of its size and proliferation. But what happens when a whale dies? FEAST!

Luc Doucet is a content strategist and executive producer in Vancouver, BC. He has been in content marketing space for over 10 years and has worked with brands like GMC, SaskTel, Bacardi, Molson Coors, Lavazza, Ford, and Accor Hotels (motel 6).

Vancouver, BC