According to Nielsen Online, the hitherto all-conquering social networking site saw its number of users fall to 8.5m in January, a 5% drop from December’s 8.9m figure. It’s the first such drop since Nielsen started collecting data on the site in July 2006, so it represents the first possible taint on Facebook’s apparent aura of invincibility.
You might argue that this was bound to happen at some point, given a year-and-a-half of stratospheric growth. Or you might conclude that people are finally starting to get bored of it – just like they got bored of Friends Reunited and MySpace and virtually every other trendy other internet site.
The problem for Facebook is that it’s no longer the innocent fresh-faced newcomer, the voice of a younger generation disrupting the old guard. Politicians are using the site to ‘reach out to the yoof’, big corporations are setting up pages to showcase their brands, and youthful owner Mark Zuckerberg seems preoccupied with working out how to ‘monetise’ his new base. And to really sound the death knell on its cool credentials, it’s even sold a stake to Microsoft, the bete noire of many internet users.
What’s more, after twelve months of poking strangers, browsing idly through the photo albums of people you barely know, and killing time on vaguely diverting applications, there seems to be a bit of Facebook fatigue creeping in among users. Everyone knows what Facebook has to offer now, and its capacity to surprise and innovate is diminishing with every passing month.
Still, it’s good news for employers: fewer people are logging onto Facebook at work, which if nothing else should save us from an endless stream of press releases about how much damage it’s doing to the real economy.
At this rate, Zuckerberg might live to regret not selling up when someone was crazy enough to value his site at $15bn...