March 6, 2011

The Future of Facebook?

By Patrick Mahan

Assuming the Mayans are wrong and we all survive 2012, here are my predictions for the future of Facebook and how it will continue to infiltrate our lives like never before ...

Over the next two years, Facebook will continue to grow at break-neck speeds. By 2013, it will become the "central hub" for all interpersonal communication across the world.

First of all, here are the major reasons I believe Facebook will continue its dominance...

A. Keeping up with all of those usernames and passwords is becoming more and more cumbersome. People want to simplify and consolidate their online identities. Facebook allows people to surf the Internet, interact, communicate and share using one single login.  This convenience will attract even more new users to Facebook.

B. As Thoreau said, "Most people lead lives of quiet desperation."  Everyone wants to feel as if their life has meaning.  Everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants someone to bear witness to their lives so they don't go unnoticed.  Facebook has given people a platform to share their lives with the world and, obviously, people are embracing this opportunity to a degree that even Mark Zuckerberg couldn't have possibly imagined.


With those two things in mind, here are a few specific predictions:

1. Facebook will become the world's #1 email provider. Look out Gmail and Yahoo! Facebook has already begun to roll out @facebook.com email addresses. Once this is fully released, it's only a matter of time before it becomes the email address of choice around the world.



2. For the majority of Internet users, Facebook will become the first website they visit each morning and the last website they visit at night.
  
3. Our Facebook News Feeds will become our primary source for news, forcing many newspapers and magazines out of business.

4. Facebook will become the "world's switchboard." The popularity of email and text messaging has reduced the number of voice-to-voice conversations, but when a call needs to be made we'll do it through Facebook. Who do you wanna call? Just go to their Facebook page, take a quick look at their wall, see what they've been up to lately, then click the big blue button labeled something like "FaceCall". This will push VoIP over the edge. These voice-to-voice calls will be free among Facebook users.

5. Facebook will create an operating system for mobile phones. The "Facebook Phone" will allow Facebook to fully integrate text messaging and voice-to-voice calls into their social network.  We will shift away from programs such as Microsoft Outlook in favor of the Facebook version of email, calendar and address book (which of course will come pre-installed on your Facebook Phone).  The interface will also make taking photos and uploading them to Facebook even easier.  And imagine if you could take a picture of someone and - using facial recogniton software - instantly connect with them on Facebook!

6. The "Like" logo will begin appearing on physical, real-world objects.  It seems everything on the Internet these days has a "Like" button attached to it.  Soon,the Like button will begin appearing on everything in the offline world as well.  Your mobile phone will become like a computer mouse in that you will be able to simply point your phone at an object, click "Like" and instantly upload it to your Facebook Wall.  This could be done using bar codes or a system similar to Google Googles.

7. Facebook will become our primary "Rolodex". To further consolidate and simplify our lives, we will use Facebook to store all of our contacts' addresses and phone numbers.

8. Facebook will become the #1 blogging platform. As the desire to "Integrate and Consolidate" grows stronger among Internet users, bloggers will move their blogs to Facebook. For this to happen, Facebook will obviously need to make some changes, but I can see Facebook Notes becoming Facebook Blog. Even without all the bells and whistles offered by sites like Wordpress, Blogger and Tumblr, I believe many bloggers will willingly sacrifice some of the customizations in favor of the simplicity of blogging within Facebook.

9. Facebook Places will eventually overtake competing sites such as Foursquare.  Again, in an effort to consolidate, integrate and simplify, people will opt to stay within the Facebook network rather than go outside of Facebook to third-party sites such as Foursquare, Groupon and perhaps even Twitter.

10. Facebook will become the search engine of choice.  Replacing Google is a stretch, but not impossible. As Facebook's database of "Likes" grows stronger, I can see a Facebook/Bing search engine which ranks pages based on number of Likes.  This would also be huge for advertisers if they could search key words and pull up conversations taking place on Facebook Walls across the world.  Imagine posting on your wall that you just bought a new house...  The next day you are flooded with offers to buy home owners insurance.  Also, suppose you are looking for a hotel in Miami... a Facebook search engine would allow you to filter results based on Likes posted by people in your age group and with similar interests.

11. Facebook Credits will become the "global currency".
This won't happen by 2012, but this bold prediction could  happen some day. Facebook Credits are no longer restricted to the online-worlds of Farmville and other similar games. They are now being sold in retail stores like Wal-mart.  And with over 500 million users and growing, the 10 cents paid per Facebook Credit adds up fast!  Once the technology becomes available to use our smartphones as "mobile wallets," transferring money - and Facebook credits - will become even easier.  And given Facebook's worldwide reach, the idea of this becoming the "global currency" isn't that far fetched.

Question: Email, phone calls, text messaging... In the next 10 years, do you think Facebook could become the "world's switchboad" - or central hub - through which all communication flows?

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