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Why Facebook is the new Yahoo

Sure, Facebook looks massively successful. With a mind-boggling 750 million users, the social site can do no wrong, right?


Look closer, and it looks like Facebook can do nothing right. The company has tried and failed to launch or integrate new services that might thrill users. But users aren’t thrilled. And now its strategy appears to be: Just copy Google+.

Don’t look now, but Facebook is quickly becoming the new Yahoo.

Here's what I'm talking about:
Jason Barefield's profile photoAaron Sng's profile photoCalin Lupa's profile photoAndre DaMota's profile photo
As soon as the "subscribe" feature was launched on fb I questioned a lot about their future. "Never let 'em see you sweat" seemed to escape the memo that day.
Definitely. They're just relying on their admittedly huge userbase to get them by. No real innovation, and they're not even buying good additions to their services.
LOl. I liked "Do you remember Facebook Messages? Neither do I."
"And now its strategy appears to be: Just copy Google+."
That's just what I've been saying.
Good Luck FB, I hope to soon file you in my memory with AltaVista
Maybe it should merge with MySpace like AOL may merge with Yahoo ;) lol
You're right about them not "thrilling" users with their new features. People don't even care--they see it as another design overhaul. They are just copying G+ indeed.
Wouldn't the Zuck have looked more the part with a white persian cat instead of the dog?
Facebook tried to become the default e-mail client for members when it rolled out Facebook Messages, which enabled people to use a e-mail address. Remember that?

Neither do I. Nobody uses it.

Yeah, good point!
IF I never have to look at Mark Zuckerberg again it will be a good thing.
+Mike Elgan I'm not a FB hater or anything - but I've had the same thoughts and for the same primary overarching reason you state, for a couple of years. For whatever reasons, they are no longer riding that sweet spot at the front of the wave. They're now slipped back to just behind the crest - where if you slip back any further you get tumbled sooner or later. I think they realize that and are scrambling.
Very nice article +Mike Elgan It's been becoming increasingly apparent that Facebook has gone from being innovators to being imitators in the few short months G+ has been around
Isn't about time for Zuckerberg to retire and start a save the world foundation?
I really don't get the hugely emotional anti-FB views that some people have. It's a wonderful tool for everyday moms and kids and friends. It is not for me, I hardly ever use it, but many people get huge benefits from it.
Not a facebook fan but until G+ goes public and everybody signs up, FB will still be the place you have to go to view the photo's from last weeks party or wedding.
Yes, Facebook is increasingly become a clunky mess, BUT all the users are there... and not here. That's a BIG problem. How will Google get the users to engage here? Hopefully companies will start promoting the hell out of it once business profiles are launched and tied to places and search. That's the only hope I see.
+Mike Elgan These R.I.P. Facebook posts are killing me. :D Facebook is indeed 'Not dead yet'. To compare it with Yahoo is a bit ludicrous. Yahoo never even sniffed the success that Facebook has and was never as dominant in their specific field. Google out-imagined them for sure, but Facebook has excelled at 1. Creating a site that everyone from your little cousin to your Grandma is on and 2. Somehow making gobs of money from said site. Google still has a ways to go. I love G+, but it's no Facebook killer, yet.
"Rumor is, Zuck's looking to sell." Any takers on how long till this starts circulating?
Thanks for this article. Enjoyed reading it. 
What gets me is that they are competing with a beta in hopes that when that beta goes completely public that they'll have copied enough of the features of the beta that users will say "but I have that here". When a beta is that good that a "finished product" struggles to compete, you know it's good. The user wins because the two companies are constantly vying for market share.

If Facebook would quit copying features and start coming up with new features that Google may not have thought about, then they'll do just fine and the competition can continue and users can continue to benefit.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn't appear to be capable of that sort of thing right now. I'm just waiting for a patent suit to follow in the coming months. It's the last line of defense for a company that is failing its users.
Possible, however the user base has reached critical mass. I think the next wave is "niche" social networks much like channels on cable. A "food" social network or Art, etc. This is where the future is going.
Yes, Facebook's response to Google+ has been mimicry. Yes, the mimicry is even mediocre in comparison. But Facebook has still managed, in a month, to make changes that would take Google years to make on one of their core services. Google+ sorely needs to manage more than Hangouts and Circles in the long run if they want to actually turn Facebook into the new Yahoo.
+L. Gray The same Bill Gates whose Microsoft is vying to purchase Facebook as well as Yahoo and has already signed deals with both companies to syndicate Bing features in search advertising? That Bill Gates?

He'll never be out of hot water :)
+Mike Elgan One criticism for this article when you say:

"Knowing that Google+ would use “circles” to segment actual social networks (“Family,” “Friends,” “People I Secretly Despise,” etc.), Facebook launched Groups and Lists, which hardly anyone used."

You make it sound like Groups and Lists launched in response to Circles when they were already there in FB for a long time (true that nobody used it).
It's too early to make such predictions. Facebook might have a surprise or two of its own up its sleeve.

In fact, I think copying the "Subscribe" feature was a smart move. If regular facebook users realized how refreshingly amazing it is to be part of communities based on "Following" people, the staggering numbers of facebook members would actually create much more active communities.

Google+ is moving too slowly, in my opinion. Google needs to introduce new features at a higher rate rather than simple fixes trickling in. It also needs to implement more ideas like hangouts to draw people from facebook. I must say there is definite shift towards G+, but people get bored of it pretty soon and go back.

G+ needs to be faster in being different from facebook.
Actually, I was wondering if Facebook would be able to buy Yahoo
Is it just me, or does this photo make anyone else think of Will Ferrell's character in Zoolander?
Something about the face and the dog, and the asking to be brought down. But, maybe its just me.
That was a very good article! That I know of, none of my friends have even looked at the new skype client in facebook [or even know it exists]. People aren't talking about facebook videochat because people have been going elsewhere to videochat for years, they don't care that there is one more place they can do it. In fact, most people have been complaining about how much chat sucks after they brought out the new sidebar (_"why are offline contacts jumbled in with online ones?"_). Another thing, the more Google+ they put in facebook, the easier it'll be for people to switch to Google+. The question is, why will people switch to Google+? Hopefully Google has the answer...
+Andrew Mirasol: There is some truth to that statement. As the story goes, some person at google came up with the idea of circles back in 2007 or 2008. They gave a presentation about the idea, and it is still publicly shared on the internet. That person left google for facebook, and introduced the idea to them. Facebook thought facebook groups would be a better idea, and implemented them, followed soon by Lists. The problem with their implementation was that it wasn't a core part of facebook. You didn't need to set up lists or groups to function on facebook.

Meanwhile, knew that facebook wouldn't change their core, and continued working on google+. Now, due to G+'s success, facebook wants to popularize the idea again, and is making it easy for people to create lists by creating them automatically.
Great article, I totally agree. I am a heavy tech user and was recently helping a friend setting up her "Facebook Fan Page", so that non friends could "follow" her. But I was terrified how confusing everything was, and my friend was really disappointed. And now I have to tell her that everything changed, and she can continue with her regular account with the new "Subscription" feature. To me Facebook is already a complete mess now, despite it's huge user base.
+Mike Elgan - When is Datamation going to get a +1 button?
Mark Zuckerberg should read this Article and start asking himself "Why Facebook is the new Yahoo"?? "Why Facebook is the new Yahoo"?? lol...
Its clear to me that G+ is innovating and is gaining a mind share here in Brazil. A famous comedian +Rafinha Bastos that has more then 3 million followers at Twitter (see @rafinhabastos) and 186k followers at Facebook is doing a hangout campaign during the next 2 weeks to give 140 vip Rock in Rio tickets (this event will occur on the next month). To get the tickets you have to enter the public hangouts with him and answer questions... the most creative answers are selected.

This is innovation! The kind that is not happening on Facebook any more.
It was time for another innovation to rise above.
Mike, brilliant article. Just wonderful how you stamp Yahoo! on Facebook haha.
Enjoyable reading, thanks.
I do FAR prefer YahooMail's interface to Gmail, crappy chalk and delicious cheese.
I like G+ but this long beta trial is making my overall G+ experience quite boring. Boring b/c all of my online contacts are on FB & they have no real incentive to leave. Why should they? G+ has great features but they are taking forever to attract the mainstream crowd.

The only people I see on G+ are photographers & techies. I can only look at so many photos & read so many tech articles a day. When G+ 1st came out, I spent a great deal of time on the site compared to FB, but as of lately, I'll look at G+ probably once a day b/c in actuality... it's boring! Even though FB has a bunch of pointless status updates, it's still the go-to place for online entertainment & I've reverted back to using FB more than G+.

So in the end, FB can do whatever it wants to copy G+, but who cares b/c regardless, everybody still prefers FB over G+...& so do I.

From the linked Datamation article: "Facebook's awkward attempts to copy Google+ smack of a quiet desperation." That is exactly how I feel about Facebook's attempts to match (or one-up) Google+.

It reminds me of workmen frantically adding slap-dash shacks onto the sides of an elegant mansion. "Look! We have videochat, too! Look! We can have you subscribe to people, too!"

feh. I cannot wait to get completely off Facebook (although it may never happen given how reluctant my real-life friends and family are wedded to Facebook).
how Google and facebook differ is Google has many services and features seperated onto many different sites, each one is simple and intuitive (Gmail, maps, music beta). What google has done, via Google+, is integrate them all effectively. In facebook's case, they are trying to have the services offered by google, but all on one site. What this creates is a complicated, bulky interface where there is too much stuff, people can not use everything effectively. By keeping everything seperated and simple, google has created an integrated interface that does not overwhelm their users, thereby allowing the features to be used more effectively.
Very intriguing article. All of this has happened within this month. I have witnessed some users de activating their account even deleting it because of the clutter. Ever since Twitter and Facebook heard of what was being implemented on Google+, changes began to happen. I have said before and will say it again, Google+ is just right for me!
Your link is to an interesting article that appears to be written by someone at google and posted elsewhere. I love G+, but this article is not very analytic -- it is filled with straw canaries. What worries me about G+ is it will become the choice of intellectuals and that is really not the audience google needs. Hope I'm wrong about that.

Of course the point is I read the whole article, so it must have some worth---though I didn't notice you wrote it, Mike, the first time I read it. As a successful freelancer you fluff things out, that is the way to succeed. Nice job.
"Like us on Facebook" or "Follow us on Twitter" sounds like "AOL keyword..." to me. Could we just use the internet already?
Possibly my favourite part of the article was:

'Yahoo has no vision. It has no purpose. It’s dispensable. Yahoo continues like a zombie, animated by the life it once had.'

Anybody else hearing Smith from 'The Matrix'; or is it just me?

PS. Whilst I'm here.
Don't know about in the US but here in the UK, the last time I booted up Spotify It said I'd been selected to share Spotify invites via a Facebook app. Early prep for a Spotify&Facebook music service OR has that been canned?
Ian H
I enjoyed that article, and on the topic of stealing G+ features, yeah, Facebook's lack of any creativity of it's own recently, has been bordering on a little pathetic.
Ian H
+Acquistare Disegno Yeah, I doubt most Facebook users even know where those features came from originally. It's a solid business strategy, but from a standpoint of respect, I find mine slowly disappearing for Facebook.
Ian H
Although I've actually even tried to post a little on FB and let people there know how much they're ripping off G+ (and in an inferior way too).
Ian H
+Acquistare Disegno Well... I think the difference is that G+ has introduced a lot of new and interesting features alongside the traditional FB features it borrowed. That's more understandable. It's borrowed but it's also contributed.

FB on the other hand, hasn't had any innovations of it's own for... well, a really long time. And we're only really seeing some now, because it has a competitor to show it how to do things. That's what I have a problem with. They seem creatively bankrupt.
+Acquistare Disegno Google+ obviously copied things to get into a market that Facebook had the lead in. They didnt spend the time to reinvent the wheel. Now that Google+ is in the game, we find Google being the innovative one and Facebook buying time by copying ;)
Ian H
+Acquistare Disegno I type too slow, lol.

But I agree with you that G+ won't be "taking down Facebook" for a long time, if ever. But neither will people leave en masse. I think it's going to continue to grow and grow, and be it's own very satisfying and large community.

It doesn't have to take down Facebook to be a very worthwhile, healthy, and fun social networking site. I think that's what people that overly praise or criticize G+ are missing.
I was seeing these changes of copying Google+ a few weeks back and people went "No they're not, I can't see any thing like that at all" to which my comment was "wait and see".
Ian H
+David Holman People may not even get the chance to see, with the way FB has been burying these features in menus and making them difficult to use.

I have, I think, one friend out of 90 on my list that actually knew what subscriptions were, and bothered to turn it on. It's the same for video chat too.
Mike, come one mate, you don't think for an instant that it simply made sense to amalgamate the best of google+, thereby further increasing the already incredibly high barrier to entry inherent in social networking today, this isn't MySpace, the team here is far more prepared, they have more than enough capital to invest in new, young minds and further they have yet to truly engage with the mobile platform. As far as I'm concerned, they may be doing a lot of "shitty" things to users, but they are hardly the next Yahoo. Google+ has shown you need more than a big name and some "innovative" contact management design to make it in social. I don't think its fair to say that Facebook is lagging, or accurate to infer that Facebook is not currently in a very good position. Just seems a little close-minded coming from you. But maybe I haven't been following you long enough?
facebook is desperately trying to come up with new innovations to help keep users on its site, and to prevent them from moving to twitter, google+, youtube etc. They have failed in all such attempts and all those 3 services are growing tremendously. Twitter is not far behind facebook, 400 million users visit, I am pretty sure google+ already has 50 million monthly users(not registered user as such, google+ public posts are indexed by search engines). Google is slowly spreading itself from non-sticky services like chrome, search, gmail and google maps into sticky services like google+, android, chromebook, google apps. Google is winning and winning big. Maybe the government will break them up as none of the competitors(no chance for facebook) can really stop the Google juggernaut
ouch, that must have hurt! - Excellent article, thanks!
Well, it's not usually the most innovative that wins out, but whoever is the most ruthless and shameless. In that regard, Facebook is making the right moves.
copying the features of your rivals might work in enterprise land, but not necessarily in consumer land. Witness the failures of facebook email, facebook deals, facebook check-ins, facebook videos, facebook questions etc all of them copycat features/services. The entire world is on facebook, yet all those features/services failed miserably.
It's funny how some of you keep insisting FB is failing b/c of the lack of attention their new or borrowed features have managed to gain. Then some of you are insisting people are leaving FB...who are these people???

My FB fan page continues to grow in numbers, I get at least 1 friend request per day on FB. Compare that to my G+ account...well I can't. I've posted the G+ link to FB & I think 1 person signed up.

Basically G+ is the land of techies & photographers, I'm a photographer as well, but my fan base (paying clients) ALL reside on FB. The only real "fan base" I've managed to attract on G+ is other photographers...& that really doesn't help my business.

Regardless, FB is the king of social media & G+ will not dethrone them anytime soon. Why? B/c FB has 1 major factor that everybody else doesn't have...the family & friend factor...FB can copy G+ all day long on features, but how effectively can G+ copy FB on the family/friend feature?
At first I was all excited about G+ being the Facebook killer, but now I'm feeling differently about that. It seems that G+ and FB serve different purposes.

Maybe once G+ opens up I'll use it for keeping in touch with my real-life friends, but right now I use it more like Reader or feedly, getting interesting content from other "plussies", letting others digest the internet for me.Right now, though, FB is where I connect with friends and I don't even use FB that much. If I want to communicate something to friends I go to FB.

I agree that FB seems to be scrambling to keep up with G+'s new features but I think they need to realize they have their own product and need to focus on it's strengths. If it ain't broke don't fix it. And most people seem to be fine with Facebook as it is. Or was until all the recent changes.

G+ is definitely the new Facebook... for those who are tired of Facebook. I, for one, love the idea of doing all of my surfing and social media-ing on Google. I just wish my friends(and my girlfriend) felt the same!
Interesting article. Google+ is VASTLY better software than Facebook, and once you get your toes in the water it's easier to understand, too. It will be interesting to see if there is a seismic shift when Google says "everybody's welcome!" and opens the doors all the way. Not that people can't get in if they really want to... they certainly can... but it doesn't seem like you can. Once the perception of "final launch" is there, we'll really see what people do.

I don't expect to see people close their Facebook accounts. I do expect to see some people start using G+ more and FB less. G+ is just so much better!
Facebook never interested me. I never signed on. I like G+ a lot and have found intriguing posts.
more on topic : It is not about facebook failing. It's about Google+ really taking social media to the next level, and Facebook is to BIG to change with it.
Here's the thing.... G+ is great and all, but 20M or so users is a very (very) long way from 750M. Just ask Twitter. Or LinkedIn. On top of that, looking at failed product launches is really not a great way to measure future success. By that measure, Google itself should be headed for disaster (Buzz, Jaiku, Wave, Orkut etc). One of the great secrets to success is to fail faster. It's not always (or every) easy to tell which ideas will succeed - sometimes you just have to try them and see what works. I've sent out tons of G+ invites to my non-geek friends and family (all of whom are on Facebook). Guess how many responded? None. That's more telling than just about anything. Add to that the continued trouble with brands and business and you have a nascent social network that is far from entrenched, and nowhere near truly threatening Facebook.

Personally, I'm happy to stand between the two giants and reap the benefits of their increased competition. Facebook needs G+ to keep them from stagnating, and G+ needs Facebook so that they have a target. As long as everything keeps getting better, I'm good.
Anyone remember using WAY before Google was around... same things. And as its been repeatedly stated, I've also heard the talk that in five years facebook will not be relevant. Not too belittle the Zucks place in .doc social history, but he does need to start being more innnovative to stay in the game.
While I agree, the big question is: if FB continues to grow its profits, could you call it the new Yahoo. About a month ago, I was seriously thinking about canceling my Facebook account, but I decided not to because I still need at least 50 friends and relatives, and ideally about a hundred, that need to get onto G+. Unfortunately, my friends and relatives are not embracing G+ fast enough.
The difference is, Facebook is a social service, whereas Google+ is shaping up to become an ecosystem. I don't care that much for fb myself, but I have friends who love it, which is fine with me. The public and media adoration of Zuck is silly, because he was just in the right place at the right time.
i Cjay
It's funny to me that just one week ago I said, why would anyone want to join a social network when the largest social network has been in place for many years and it's called the internet.
Facebook,Twitter,and Google Plus will all fade like Yahoo and AOL. People will realize that owning a piece of the pie is where it's at. So lookout for the DOMAIN THAT IS YOU and the connection it has to the rest of the social network called the internet.
My confrontation with FB has always been over their use of the term "friend." (Making it a verb - to friend someone - is the worst.) I'd rather they let me connect or re-connect with connections, and leave it to us to define our relationship. Because the fact remains that the computer is an inauthentic place to have pursue a friendship. Sooner or later, you have to get up and find other humans. Other than that, it's useful but I've never admired the technology. Google+ is better technology but so far not as friendly.
Great article! My sentiments exactly.
Great article from Mike. Can't wait to see the back of Facebook who's entire ethos seems to revolve around tapping into the voyeur in people
First, I think the "new Yahoo" future you describe is a definite possibility. I disagree that Facebook's strategy is "just copy Google+". In fact, Facebook is lightyears ahead of Google+ as an app platform, and the music services you mentioned, if done well, could revolutionize the way people find new music. It's important not to under estimate music. Music pages launched MySpace to its popularity, and they're among the biggest sources of traffic on Facebook. I'm rooting for it to do well -- and I'm rooting for Google+ to learn as much as it can from Facebook music's success or failure. The best case scenario is that both platforms do so well that they're forced to open their friend graphs to each other. Facebook's leadership isn't showing any signs that they would ever be willing to do that, but if they continue to decline sharply and Google+ continues to grow rapidly, they might eventually be left with little choice if they want to hold on to the lingering user base.
I think the fact that this post is one of a very small number (most of whom are in fact Mike's) in my google+ feed says a great deal more about the rationality behind some of these ideas. Facebook just isn't failing like you seem to wish/hope. I see no mention here of Facebooks Spartan project, no mention of the effect social search might have on googles main market, this is a completely unbalanced view with little or no effort to explore more than one side of the argument. It also seems to be exactly the kind of rhetoric that google fanboys love. Great way to appeal to your audience, poor effort in presenting a balanced view. I suppose I cant really critique until I've made an effort to present something myself. When I have time I assure you I will and I'll be posting it in both G+ and FB. ;)
Okay Mike, I gave Scoble the long version - you are right, in case you needed me to tell you so. :)
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