By Amar Tejaswi:
Ideas and humans are peculiar! Both succeed when rubbished and fail miserably when deemed ingenious. Sitting in his hostel room, young Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have realized that the idea he conceived, would one day become the benchmark of social networking and internet access. His idea has pervaded the world in a manner ruthlessly surprising, even to him!
I feel compelled to begin with the obituary of an old stalwart named Orkut, the first (or second if you count Hi5) website that introduced India to ubiquitous world of social networking. Until a couple of years ago, Orkut held the position that Facebook has now acceded to. Bulldozed by the versatility of Facebook and its own inability to heed innovation, it is on the verge of obliteration. Devout Orkut users started migrating to Facebook for reasons never explained. And none can ever find out. Such are the dynamics of the web. As it is rightly said, ‘On the web, your rival is just a click away!’
It is amusingly hard to explain why people would abandon a site they are well accustomed to, in favour of a new one. I guess it’s the same reason why people move to a new house after living in one for a number of years. Everyone likes change. Living in the same house or maintaining an account on the same social networking site for a prolonged period of time gives birth to a feeling of anti-incumbency. Friends (particularly female) moving to a new site definitely cause miniature landslide of users. Another statistic worth noticing is the percentage of rise in the number of Facebook users in a short span of time. It seems as if an avalanche of users collectively moved out of Orkut, rendering it almost out of business. Within a year, active users on Facebook have shot up to a staggering 500 million, while those on Orkut have drastically diminished. Looking at these numbers tempts me to draw comparisons between social networking sites and religion! For a start, both measure their power in terms of people. Never mind, just a passing thought.
But Facebook is not the only one occupying public imagination. Micro-blogging site, Twitter, too has reserved its own space. Unlike Facebook, Twitter owes it serendipitous rise to political controversies catching the public eye on its own servers. Additionally, what has worked in Twitter’s favour is the star power it carries, although, it might even be a paradoxical repercussion of the controversies. With each passing day, its celebrity count is on the rise and the thing that makes Twitter shine — unlike Facebook – is that a user can follow his favourite star without the fear of being rejected!
Incredible though is the fact that these two similar sites actually don’t seem to be competing with each other. Users registered with Facebook are also on Twitter. This may be attributed to the way each site conducts itself. Facebook is mainly about connecting with friends and commenting on their pictures and videos apart from the panoply of apps it offers (which help you incinerate as much time as you have). On the other side, Twitter lets you know what people are thinking and doing.
Now all that brings us to think of what shape the future could take. Honestly, it is hard to predict. The web – changing faster than it ever has – is taking human capacity to its limits. Imagination, however limitless, has to be stretched to its maximum elasticity for the cause of survival. For Facebook and Twitter to survive, innovation without large scale changes is the key. They have to stay plain and simple. People like change but at the same time they also resist it! But I am sure Facebook is not the pinnacle of social networking, it will fade out one day, maybe four years from now, may be more, and someone else with something better will come along. But who knows? The end of Facebook might even be the end of social networking, or will it be? Do let us know by dropping in a comment below or tweeting us at @YouthKiAwaaz. You can also catch us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/youthkiawaaz.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.