While I am on the record for saying that Facebook will become the number one social network in the world and will sell for over $10bn and I still believe that Facebook will do to social networks what Google did to search, as I use my own Facebook I am beginning to see some real problems. What follows is a list of the biggest challenges that I see as a Facebooker.
The first one has been the managing of my friendships. Ok, my case is not typical because I am a blogger with around 15K unique readers per day and that leads to an enormous requests for friendships. What happened to me is that first I only accepted my friends, and by friends I mean people who I know, I like, have really met in the real world and say would go out for dinner with. Then what followed is that I started getting a lot of requests from friends of friends. So I started inventing rules. Ok, if somebody is a friend of a friend and we have at least 3 friends in common then I say yes. Or say hot babe with one friend in common, also yes. But following these rules I ended up with 81 friends so far, mostly guys cause I say that I am married interested in friendship, and a waiting list of 34 friends. But the problem here is who can manage 81 friends? When one of my 81 friends receives a gift for example, or somebody writes on the wall of a friend of a friend, do I care? So my first point is that Facebook has the risk of drowning into its own success. As a result it does not surprise me that the Top Friends app is now the most popular in Facebook with over 7 million users but that app too is not frictionless cause the ones who are not Top feel excluded.
Secondly Facebook has done great allowing all these apps to be integrated in their site. I visited them recently and I was amazed at the spirit of collaboration and how easy it was for Fon to integrate with Facebook. But the negative point with apps is the same as the one with friends. Facebook is like a shop in which everything is free. At first you go crazy and start adding apps one after the other. But then, just as you went mad adding friends only to be unable to manage the friendships you realize that if managing friends required time, managing apps requires even more time. You add say EF Globalprint for example and then you have to fill up all the countries you have ever been to, now in my case that is half an hour of work. And that´s just one app, when you start dealing in music, videos, chats, it´s like reinventing the internet all over again inside Facebook, it´s a ton of work.
Lastly I see the third danger of Facebook which is massification. For now being in Facebook is still cool, new, an experience filled with discovery moments. But with my 3 older kids on Facebook, myself on Facebook, my friends on Facebook, my unknown friends on Facebook, Facebook is beginning to feel like one huge traffic jam to me. There are tons of people, but little movement forward. I simply cannot move quickly inside a huge mass of people. That´s when I start missing networks like A Small World that seems to have gone silent since Facebook exploded or Dopplr which is very small, single purpose (travel plans shared among friends) and by invitation only.
In any case, don´t get me wrong, I still believe that Facebook is here to stay, that the kid who started is to networking what Larry and Sergey are to search and that we will be hearing about Facebook in 2020. But having said all this managing my Facebook is becoming too much of a problem for me.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars