A recent article by Erik Saas at The Social Graf sums up the state of would-be competitors to Facebook nice and succinctly. I do believe that folks may be generally agnostic when it comes to social media with a hint of laziness or hesitancy towards adopting new technologies when they are for the most part content with current offerings. In other words, while people may have some issues with Facebook, there’s no real viable alternative, because there are not 750 million people on any other network; and, your current investment (building relationships, posting pics) is too time consuming to replicate elsewhere.
While Google+ made an admirable run at challenging Facebook by gaining a massive number of new signups in a relatively short time period, it seems to have stalled out because users simply aren’t using it as heavily as Facebook.
A comment post on Erik’s article by Douglas Ryan at Digitas suggests that technology, not a direct competitor will ultimately unseat Facebook as the king of all social media. I tend to agree with this hypothesis to an extent. Technology will change (or evolve) and may perhaps offer new tools to exploit pop culture, but ultimately that will take a new competitor to introduce.
Facebook would not succeed without ubiquitous internet access (be it wired or wireless), and the next service will surely need a new technology as a catalyst to unseat Facebook.
But, not all social phenomenons sunset as fads. In the early days of the ‘net, pundits called online shopping a fad, as “people would still want to go to store for a tactile experience”. And sure enough, both co-exist. However, I would not say online shopping is a fad. Similar statements could be said about online music sales, eBay and amazon.com. We forget that these “things” where once social phenomena because they are no mainstream. Facebook could very well become the Google of social media – something that is here to stay.