The end of social media? Probably not....
Is the Twitpocalypse nigh? Is the end of Facebook right around the corner? And if so, how on earth are you going to fill eight hours a day at work? The horror!
I enjoy a good dose of doomsaying as much as anyone -- hell, more than most. But a couple of recent articles that have been buzzing around the Internet predicting the end (or the beginning of the end, at least) for the two biggest social media platforms within days of each other seem to demand comment.
The first of these is a story circulating around predicting a Y2K-like disaster for Twitter, appropriately named the Twitpocalypse. The gist: the unique identifiers used to manage tweets are going to exceed the 2.1 billion range set out for them and crash the whole thing on or around June 13. Tweets lost, third-party apps crashed, horror and destruction raining down on all. Should you be worried? In a word: hell no. Didn't we learn our lesson with the actual Y2K scare?
I think our real worst-case scenario is Twitter goes down for a day or two, we lose a few tweets and maybe have to patch our Twitter apps. If you have valuable info stored in your tweets, it couldn't hurt to back them up, but your threat level is basically nil. Even if the whole thing goes in the toilet, we'll have a Twitter 2.0 within weeks -- supposing we haven't moved on to something new.
Our second doomsday comes via the learned mind of Douglas Rushkoff, professor of new media studies, Internet prognosticator and generally hip new technology guy. He posits that the upcoming Facebook "vanity URL" feature -- in brief, your Facebook address can be www.facebook/YourNameHere, as explained here -- will be the beginning of the end for Facebook. The heart of his argument is that the unique quality of Facebook is its semi-private, quasi-walled garden aspect, and that making it more accessible to the larger Internet will kill it, just like what happened with AOL. He makes the good point that the biggest issue with Facebook isn't that it is too difficult to find "friends," but that it's too awkward to reject the advances of "friends" you don't really want -- and everyone who's been found by a crazy ex or psycho high-school acquaintance can agree with that.
On the other hand, the connection to the upcoming vanity URL feature seems specious at best. It seems apparent that Facebook is already on its way out, and has been for a while. Its attempt to Twitterize itself says something about that. And really, once you've gotten in touch with every ex and high-school buddy you do care to speak to, what's the point of Facebook anyway? Like most social media, it's most interesting and useful when it expands your circle a bit, without expanding it too much to be useful. Once everyone is on it, it's time to migrate to the next thing. Anyone know what that might be? If I get there first, I am hoping I can avoid my exes a while longer than I did on Facebook and Twitter....