It’s a parlor game in tech circles: when will Facebook flame out? Its lackluster IPO last year gave plenty of ammunition to critics. “Facebook is like a 2000-story building that’s tall and narrow,” respected Internet thinker Doc Searls told me last summer in a Forbes interview. Its eventual fadeout is “like predicting the next earthquake. You know it’s going to happen, you just don’t know when. But cracks are there in the earth and you see some evidence of movement.”
Another prominent online expert, fellow Forbes blogger Shel Israel, told me in a late spring interview that, though we now live in a “Facebook era,” he also believes its days as a powerhouse are numbered. “At some point, there will be a social network better enough so that people will leave Facebook not in droves, but a little bit at a time…it’ll slowly get smaller, ad revenues will slowly go down, and the new one will figure out how to make money on mobile, which Facebook hasn’t yet done. It will happen sooner than most people think.”
But one well-known technology thought leader – Robert Scoble, who is Shel Israel’s co-author of the 2006 book Naked Conversations and the forthcoming The Age of Context – begs to differ. (Israel and Scoble like to joke about their divergent opinions about Facebook.) “Anybody who says Facebook is going to fade has not done their homework,” Scoble says. “Facebook is not MySpace, and I can’t say that clearly enough. It’s a platform companies are building on top of, so if you think it’s going to fade, that means Instagram has to fade, it means Highlight is going to fade, and every other app that relies on Facebook.”
Part of Facebook’s success is simply the scale they’ve been able to achieve. “Can you tell me about a world where you’re going to rip out Facebook? No one can tell me about that because a billion people are on the thing,” he says.
And part of it is their technological acumen. Scoble praises Facebook’s ability to filter out the noise and deliver targeted, useful information. He also loves their list functionality. Overall, he says, “They’re so far ahead of Google and Twitter in terms of what [the service] does, and what it allows you to do. They’ve built the world’s best messaging system – the best the world has ever known.”
Even in the long term, Scoble remains bullish: “If you think they’re going to fade, tell me what’s going to replace it. Nothing. There’s no replacement for Facebook, and until there is, there’s no way to say it’s going to fade.”
Do you agree with Scoble? When – if ever – do you think Facebook will start to sputter?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on February 13, 2013.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.