Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.
Now that Facebook has hit the 300 million members mark and shown that its free service can rope in dough, we have to wonder what will happen to the social networking giant 10 years down the road. Here are five possibilities for the future of Facebook.
Evolved gaming interactivity
Facebook has already embraced the allure of interactive gaming—almost to the point of obnoxious saturation. (Honestly, do you really want to see one more Mob Wars update?) The gaming platform will likely evolve into a more graphics-heavy, MMO-type experience; a true utilization of Facebook’s social networking abilities. Producers of increasingly popular and innovative Xbox Live games will be attracted to the possibilities of Facebook and integrate next-gen gaming with Facebook’s currently staid collection.
More aggressive advertising
Facebook reached “cash flow positive” status through its advertising. Businesses and nobodies alike can purchase ad space to promote a cause, inflate specific profiles (become a fan of the shoe-throwing guy!), or sell products. The ads, as of now, are relatively non-intrusive—unlike the eye-gouging visceral assaults found on rival MySpace—but with a bit of greed, that minimalist approach could go the way of the dinosaurs. Shove a bucket of money underneath Zuckerberg’s nose and you might find that Facebook’s placid method of money-making may be more flexible than previously thought.
A pointless offshoot
Imagine a Facebook phone, a Facebook OS, or a Facebook retail store. Many products and companies, faced with a lack of imagination, rip off other ideas in order to enter fields of competition they had no business joining in the first place (Zune HD anyone?). This type of silly “evolution” generally strikes companies flush with cash—which, given Facebook’s newfound penchant for bundling dollars, could happen sooner rather than later—and ends up costing a fortune, and, more importantly, a reputation.
A busy catch-all
Facebook does a great job streaming friend statuses and posted items such as videos and hilarious news articles (a recent item a friend posted about girls using Facebook instead of an emergency phone number struck me as culturally telling). Now imagine Facebook taking a Google approach to its site: aggregating news, managing calendars and documents, and anything else it can possibly get its hands on. This, like the pointless offshoots and aggressive advertising, would compromise the initial philosophy behind the site, damage Facebook’s overall reputation, and inch it closer to the grave.
A brick wall
Social networking will eventually plateau, skid, and fall off a cliff. Users will abandon ship, just as they did with MySpace, tired of scanning pointless Twitter-like status updates, step-by-step progress through silly games, and pictures of vacations you will never, ever take. Without a great deal of innovation and progressive thought, Facebook could find itself staring at a brick wall with no direction home to the simple glory days before 300 million turned into 600 million.