An interesting thought occurred to me after, and regrettably not during, a conversation I had with IDC analyst Karsten Weide two days ago.
I was asking him about the probability that Microsoft could buy Facebook, AOL or Ask.com as an alternative online ad opportunity to the failed Yahoo deal.
He told me, which I used in this piece today, that Facebook users are leaving for services such as Twitter and other startups such as FriendFeed, etc. I assented without challenging this for a couple reasons.
One, I use Twitter a whole lot more than Facebook. I just don't have time to mess around on it. It takes too much time in my mind. Twitter lets me keep up with folks much faster.
Two, I've heard others say the same exact thing, or, if it wasn't Twitter, it was Pownce, Plurk, FriendFeed or something else.
There are stats to support this. Andrew Chen wrote that MySpace and Facebook are plateauing and provides stats to back that up.
This is such a salient issue to watch that Om Malik picked up on it. Read Write Web offers an alternative view courtesy of the Conference Board if you're sick of the naysaying.
Are fickle users leaving Facebook and MySpace for alternative services? Quite possibly.
This is a bad omen for social advertising. If you can't get users to play and click on your site, how can you make money? Not every site will be able to monetize with apps the way Facebook and MySpace are headed.
So when Weide tells me social networks won't be the portals they aim to be because of "user fatigue," I fear he may be right.
Can Google do something here, creating OpenSocial services that retain users? The company has a great track record for Web services and a greater track record for using search as its entry to new services.
iGoogle and Gmail are incredibly sticky apps. I live in them, but you can't have the same social experience of Facebook so they are limiting.
I believe Google can capitalize on its services track record, but the question is how? What Google services will emerge that are both social and stickier than Facebook, MySpace and the incredibly long tail of Twitter, FriendFeed, et al?
Or will we flat out just get tired of all of these new services and discard them like trash?
What do you think?