Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trouble with FACEBOOK

Social media site trying to stay relevant, but it's not working

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This past week, Facebook announced a big new feature called Graph Search. Essentially, Graph Search allows you to search Facebook's system to find other people who share the same interests as you. For instance, I could search "social media" or "entrepreneurship" and find other people who are interested in those two topics. I could then add them or communicate with them in any way I like.

About two months ago, I wrote about a new and upcoming social networking site called Air Time, a networking site that allows you to video chat with people around the world who share the same interests as you. To sign up for Air Time, you log in using your Facebook profile. It then pulls information from your Facebook profile such as pages you like, activities pinned, search queries and profile information. Air Time then pulls all of that information together and searches for a video-chatting partner who shares some of your interests. One of the co-founders of Air Time is Sean Parker, the Internet entrepreneur who was involved in Facebook in the early days.

Parker also created Napster. I do not know if Parker and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are on good terms, but it seems like Facebook is ripping off Air Time's service.

When Facebook rolls out this new feature, I don't think it will be a big deal. I like to use Facebook to see what my friends are up to; I will not necessarily want to get in touch with fellow entrepreneurs who live in Saskatchewan. If I want to find people who share the same interests as me, I will use sites such as Pinterest, Google+ or Twitter.

Another feature Facebook recently rolled out was a VOIP service. It's basically Skype but using your Facebook friends as contacts. It is evident Facebook is having quite the identity crisis. Facebook is continually trying to launch new features to remain relevant and I don't think it is working.

Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ are rising and consuming most of people's Internet time, if you will. Recently, everybody has been tweeting they are going on a Facebook detox because the service has been saturated with spam and Facebook statuses are annoying. I personally think Facebook is becoming quite annoying, because I am constantly being sent invites to clubs, parties and events I have no interest in attending. I feel that with Facebook now, there is no groundbreaking content being posted. I find myself scrolling, scrolling, and then scrolling some more to find something I find mildly entertaining. Facebook's new VOIP service is something I have no interest in because if I want to call someone I will use my cellphone or Skype.

Another thing Facebook needs to do is unify its service into one application again. I remember when Facebook only had one mobile application available. It was easy, because all of my notifications were categorized in one space. Sadly, Facebook has the main app, the messenger app, and now the VOIP app -- that's three times more notifications I will now have to deal with. Not interested. Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page was interviewed recently and did not have too many nice things to say about Facebook.

In an interview on DailyTech.com, Page discussed how he wants Google to come up with some "moon shots," or far-out ideas such as the company's self-driving vehicles that recently achieved 48,280 accident-free kilometres. However, Page also took the opportunity to throw a few insults at rivals Facebook and Apple. Google's social network, Google+, has been working to gain the number of users Facebook has, while Google's Android operating system competes with Apple's iOS. While Page recognizes Facebook is a heavyweight in the social arena, he said, "They're also doing a really bad job on their products... we're actually doing something different. I think it's outrageous to say that there's only space for one company in these areas."

I think Facebook is trying extremely hard to stay relevant. With new cool networks/apps coming out very quickly like Snap Chat, Facebook seems to be swimming against the current. For myself, when I wake up in the morning I first check Twitter, Instagram, Google+, then I browse Facebook to see if anyone has died, basically. Is Facebook slowly dying? Are you still a loyal user? Send me an email: db@thedavidbell.com or shoot me a tweet @thedavidbell. I'd love to hear your opinions!

David Bell (@thedavidbell) is a young entrepreneur in Winnipeg. He specializes in emerging technology and online aspects of business, including web and social media consulting. Access his company online at iBXMediaGroup.ca. He is an active member of the YouTube community (http://www.TheDavidBell.com), with more than two million views and 5,000 subscribers. He was also a Dragons' Den contestant. Email: db@thedavidbell.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2013 A15

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