Why Facebook Isn’t Going Anywhere

A photo of Mark Zuckerberg
The smiling, aw-shucks face of the ultimate survivor. (Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Leoboudv)

Collective rage against Facebook has become deafening over the last six months. It stands accused of killing everything from our attention span to journalism, to democracy itself. It’s been blamed for helping Russia subvert the U.S. electoral process, dodging responsibility for publishing fake news by denying it’s become one of the world’s biggest media companies. The situation has become so dire that Facebook’s ex-employees are banding together to sound the alarm, trying to limit further damage to society.

One upshot of this fury is renewed predictions of Facebook’s imminent demise. The idea is that Facebook’s Achilles heel is its lack of accountability, which the accumulated rage being heaped upon it will target, causing the titan to tumble to the ground.

This is wishful thinking for two simple reasons: Facebook is the ultimate survivor and the ultimate chameleon.

Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up

Facebook has faced many existential threats over the years. One of the biggest was Google+, the brainchild of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. At the time, Google was the incumbent tech giant, and Facebook hadn’t even gone public. Things looked grim for FB. Unfortunately for Larry and Sergey, Facebook had an ace up its sleeve, a hyper-competitive genius named Mark Zuckerberg. Zucks declared war on Google+, and beat the snot out of it, ultimately relegating it to an afterthought in the social media world. The last reliable stats on Google+ usage are from four years ago, when the network had 16 million monthly average users; that number has almost certainly not climbed. Today Facebook has over 2.13 billion monthly average users, or about 133 times the number of users G+ had the last time anybody performed a reliable count.

Facebook is pulling a similar number on Snapchat as we speak, using Instagram to eat Snapchat’s lunch. All of this is to say that Facebook is the ultimate technology competitor, and will never go gently into that good night, no matter how many criticisms it faces.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Facebook’s other ace is its ability to evolve. Facebook started as a dorm-room project to replace paper facebooks at universities; you had to have an educational email account just to participate. Then it morphed into a social network, defining the genre as it did so. Soon after, it turned into a content marketing and advertising platform, and eventually a media company, surpassing or killing every other form of media, from journalism to comedy. Now it’s moving beyond the publishing space to global internet access, artificial intelligence, solar-powered drones and more. At every stage when it seemed like Facebook couldn’t grow any further, it reinvented itself, and kept on growing.

This is why Facebook will survive, no matter what happens: its ability to compete and adapt. In that sense, it’s the ultimate organism, something that can not only outwit and outlast everything else, but evolve itself out of every hole it finds itself in. Expect it to be around five or ten years from now (an eternity, in tech time) by competing long enough to – yet again – adapt and evolve into a different beast.

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