Virginia Heffernan’s post about the “Facebook Exodus” on the NYTimes Media Blog has got some attention over the last couple of days (ironically, I saw it posted on Siva Vaidhyanathan‘s Facebook feed).
While not based with hard numbers, the qualitative point, that a significant number of people are migrating from Facebook for various reasons, seems solid enough (even though traffic numbers are still high).
What I would add here is that the same has happened in the past to friendster (remember friendster? It’s still big in Asia!) and myspace, and I think we can be sure it will happen in the future to Twitter too, if it continues to grow at its current rate.
All of these services can be seen as trying to corner a market for social networks online, and, ironically, success here can actually lead to failure. To put it in a rather unsophisticated way, people are (a) tribal, (b) only willing to deal with a certain amount of content, both reach their limits when networks become really, really big.
On the tribal point, the very exclusivity and in-crowd-ness that can attract people to a particular platform at one point in time will be gone by the time their boss, parents, and uncool middle-school friends are also there (an uglier version of this trend is one often noted by danah boyd, namely racial segregation between facebook and myspace).
On the content point, the same way, while Facebook (and friendster, myspace, twitter, whatnot) at one point in time may have facilitated a richer social environment for some users than, say, email or IM alone could, by the time they have to spend considerable amounts of time gatekeep just what feeds from whom of their hundreds of friends appear when on their page, the value has already evaporated-a problem of overload and attention economy that I and others have written about.
Yes, I think I too at some point will abandon my Facebook profile, because it will cease offering my added value. I expect to be able to migrate to another social networking site. And I expect to eventually leave that one too.