Facebook: How will it fare in the next ten years?

Feb 4, 2014

As Facebook celebrates its tenth birthday, questions are being asked: will it continue to soar – or fall by the wayside?

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IN THE past ten years, Mark Zuckerberg has taken Facebook from a Harvard dorm-room project to a multi-billion dollar machine - while revolutionising the way people communicate with one another.

As the company celebrates its tenth birthday - and record profits - analysts are attempting to predict how the social networking giant will fare over the next decade. Has growth peaked, or will the site regain momentum?

Peak Facebook Talk of Facebook’s demise is rarely out of the press. The BBC’s technology reporter Jane Wakefield says the site’s future would look quite bleak “if a glut of recent studies were to be believed”. She points to research conducted by Princeton University that used Google search data to predict that Facebook would lose 80 per cent of users in the next three years.

Facebook replied with a pointed reminder that studies of this sort can lead to “crazy conclusions”. It applied the same Google analysis to Princeton, claiming that the results predicted that the university would have no students by 2021 and - more alarmingly - that the world would run out of air by 2060.

Revenues A glance at the numbers suggests that demise may be a long way off. Facebook is valued at $133 billion and Zuckerberg himself is worth about $20 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports. In 2013 the company saw unique users jump from 1.19 to 1.23 billion. It has also reported a substantial growth in revenue from mobile advertising, reporting a five-fold increase between mid-2012 and mid 2013.

David Ebersman of market research company eMarket says that Facebook has gone from barely having a mobile advertising offering to being "the best mobile product" in digital marketing.

Forrester Research analyst Nate Elliott predicts that Facebook is well positioned to make money from its users - and companies seeking to reach them. "They know more about their users than any company has ever known about a population," he says.

Changing demographic Despite that rosy assessment, some commentators are convinced that Facebook will have to change. Tom Ollerton of We Are Social tells Marketing Magazine that his young niece provides plenty of evidence that people who have grown up with sites like Facebook and Twitter are network-savvy from a younger age and use multiple sites to communicate with one another. “There are whispers in the playground amongst her peers about which social networks they use, and what they use them for,” he says.

Where does that leave Facebook? The answer, says Ollerton, lies in distinguishing between what appeals to a younger and older generation, while developing a range of creative instant messaging options and a complementary advertising strategy.
“Ten years down the line, Facebook will not be defined by the people who are on it now, but the people who are on it then,” he says.

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