The Haunting & Inevitable Future of Facebook

It’s no secret that technology is in constant change. If you’re not privy to this, do yourself justice and look around. 10 years ago nobody was face-planted into a 4 inch device, yet here we are. Technology is an extremely powerful outlet. It effects every aspect of our life, and whether you agree with it’s existence or not one thing is certain,  technology is here to stay.

As a tech follower for sometime now, I have learned a few things that remain true. The most important aspect and guarantee you can take from the tech industry is: it won’t stay still. It’s here to progress. It has to. Because it’s customers do. New customers (age groups and demographics) bring new needs. Different trends spawn fresh redesigns and feature sets. Nothing in tech is by accident. This is an important fact to remember simply because we are the customer and we should be aware of what is trying to target us, our time and our priorities. We should enjoy the product to an extent but also be knowledgable of why it is doing what it is doing. For example: When google starts asking you why you are searching for something instead of just searching for you, that should raise a bright red flag.

The future of the tech world is of immense interest to me. I find it fascinating how culture shifts with plastic tech products. I am always thinking of what could come next. These answers aren’t hard to gather if you look closely and due diligence in research. Like I mentioned, Tech’s target is us. What do we want? Do we even know? Some companies think we do. Some think we don’t. But no other company as of recent has fascinated me more than Facebook. In my opinion, the most influential company in the world.

I guess it’s only fair if I tell you my personal relationship with Facebook. Consider the source right? I joined Facebook in 2006. Right as myspace was slowing down. It was actually quite fun at first. There wasn’t many people on, you basically friended your friends, which was nice. And the end result was a nice compartmentalization of your life, nice and neat. It wasn’t long before everyone came in and flooded the servers of Facebook. And personally, it just got to be too much for me. It was too much to control, too much content to take in intelligently and too overbearing. When a tech product starts to control me, I leave. And I did. Sure countless people asked me why and how it was dumb to leave. But as for me? I knew it was the right move personally.

Facebook did something really clever before I left though. They prompted a screen in the exit process. First off, they wouldn’t let me delete my account. Only to add that they knew best and they would intelligently “deactivate” my account. (RED FLAG #1). This didn’t seat well with me . Maybe to an uninformed regular human this doesn’t matter. But to me it meant I was still living on Facebook’s servers. Since there is no option, I had to agree and so I did. I would rather be “deactivated” on their servers than participating in the confused nonsense. What also bothered me and is the point of this post is what came next: The “don’t leave, your friends will miss you page.” (RED FLAG #2). Facebook intelligently took my closest (most interacted with) friends and placed them in JPEG holders and proudly stated “they” would miss me. As if they didn’t exist beyond my computer screen. As if they weren’t real people living in the real world.

As of present day, It almost feels like everyone is attending a party that I chose and continually choose not to attend. As an introvert, this kind of makes me feel good, but as a human being , I still peak in from time to time. Facebook is attractive. It gives you up to the second news feeds of people you seemingly care about and continually refreshes to birth a new stream of content at an exhausting rate. Although in print, that description probably seems crazy, in real life usage it actually works quite well and is extravagantly addictive.

Facebook as a company fascinates me. More so, Facebook’s future as a company is the most interesting future any tech company has to offer in my opinion. Not Apple, not Google, not Samsung, not Tesla, not Twitter but Facebook.

DISCLAIMER: I would like to run at a disclaimer at this point: I am not a shareholder of any Facebook stock. Besides Apple Inc, I don’t have any internal knowledge of future product roadmaps (hardware, software or services) of any tech company. Everything I am about to put on the table about Facebook’s future is completely speculative. But it should be stated that these are informed guesses from obtainable information that any individual can dig and find on the interwebs.

PAST

To look at Facebook’s possible future we first have to look at what Facebook is capable of. The best way to do this is to simply look at their past. This is a company that started at a small university level, a limited social network that grew like no company in the history of any industry in the terms of users and marketing profit margins. So to make a long story short, Facebook has set the gold standard for a rising startup. They quickly spread and grew across the world, flicking the switch in an obscene amount of time in a ridiculous amount of places.

They also are a company who is ran by a very smart man. Enter Marc Zuckerburg. Since Steve Jobs, the smartest man in technology in my opinion. We all know Zuck’s story. Its what every young college computer science major wants to do. Start a company, be a billionaire, change the world. But personally, I don’t think Zuckerburg wanted the first two nearly as bad as he wants to change the world. And he did it and he’s doing it now. But this article will focus on how he will continue to do it.

PRESENT

By the end of 2013, Facebook boasted 1.23bn monthly active users worldwide, adding 170m in just one year. According to Facebook, 757m users log on to Facebook daily, as of 31 December 2013. Maybe you didn’t get that because those numbers seem fairytale-ish. But 757 million user log in daily. Thats an extreme amount of people giving you information, Personal information as well as public.

As good as those numbers sound though Facebook is actually on the decline in the present day. Internally they are struggling to reach core demographics of teenagers believe it or not. Twitter is actually getting more and more teens by the day, Many analysts think this is because teens do not desire to be on the same social media outlet as their parents. So the problem for Facebook now is they have too many users and they are “sherlocking” their own product. Actually that is quite fascinating and funny all at the same time.

All of this success has not made Mark Zuckerburg ignorant though. He understands as well as anyone that revolutions come from below. A small start up could one day dethrone a big giant who is basking in their own success. The innovators dilemma – where you get so caught up in your own innovation you miss the next wave of real innovation. Zuckerburg knows this all to well and he is consistently on the look out for the next big thing. Take into account his three big recent purchases:

1. Instagram – A social networking photo service that works flawless and simple. PURCHASE PRICE: 1 BILLION
2. whatsapp – A multi-platform, worldwide messaging service that was highly successful for teenagers mostly in Europe. PURCHASE PRICE: 19 BILLION!
3. Oculus Rift – A virtual reality start up that was leading the charge in real time virtual reality creation. PURCHASE PRICE: 2 BILLION

Do you notice anything about those companies? They’re all about connecting. Here it is: Facebook is about connecting you with data, in a simple sentence we have just discovered Facebook’s mission statement. Data is their business. They collect everyone’s data and literally sell it to companies and then you will see smart ads pop up on the sidebar of your pages. Coincidentally with content of your interest. This is no coincidence .

FUTURE

You see the truth and future of Facebook is right in front of you and users hardly realize it. Your information, your tendencies, your likes and dislikes your time spent on and off. Your friends, your new friends your old friends, the friend you just unfriended, the boy or girlfriend you just broke things off with, your husband, your wife, your kids, your kid’s kids, your grandchildren, their friends and your pets. Are you getting the picture yet? They keep EVERYTHING logged and they use it to their advantage, literally. It’s their business to know you. Remember YOU are the reason they exist. And they take complete advantage of such information.

Lets fast forward now and take a look down the road:

APPS
Down the road Facebook will no doubt continue it’s mobile presence. They already are turning out new iOS apps almost weekly by some of the best designers in the industry. Mike Madas and Loren Brichter just to name a few. They have released (in addition to a new revamped official app):

1. Facebook Messenger
2. Instagram
3. Facebook Page Manager
4. whatsapp
5. Facebook Paper

These are all available on iOS platform, and you may think to yourself so what? But if you look even 2 years ago, none of these existed under Facebook’s authority except their official app. Its clear Facebook is making a huge push into mobile. But why?

They are working extremely hard to be mobile-only and they will certainly continue down that road because mobile is the future and Facebook needs to be there. And they will be. Thats where the users are. Thats where the data is.

HARDWARE
This is quite tricky actually. Facebook has attempted hardware in the past, most notably the HTC Facebook phone. As far as numbers show, the phone was introduced with subpar selling number and since HTC has halted production.

Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift is very interesting though. Oculus Rift is an actual headset you wear to turn your world into a virtual world. So is Facebook trying to make a Facebook headset you wear to create dystopia for you to live in? Im skeptical of that, but it can’t quite be put to bed either. The jury is still out on a hardware future for Facebook.

SERVICES
Ah, here is where I want to land. This is the backbone of Facebook. Internet Services, data consumption and “connecting” users. Surly, Facebook’s future depends on this. But how? How will they and Mark Zuckerburg ensure no small start up does something fresh and unique to make Facebook look like a dinosaur. Simple answer in my opinion; They use what they already have: “data.” Your data, my data, everyone’s data; living and dead. Yes, dead.

If you’ve made it this far then I applaud you bearing my ramblings. But at last, here is my prediction:

VIRTUAL IMMORTALITY

Facebook, one day will allow you to “connect” with dead people. I know this is a dark subject but please bear with me (for a little longer). Think about that as a feature and don’t be so naive to tell me its impossible. Consider these points:

A. No one can delete anything from Facebook’s servers. Ever.
B. We’ve already established they are data hoarders.
C. Their main source of income is information.
D. Their company goal is to “connect” people.

So don’t tell me they can’t. They most certainly can and most probably will. Facebook is a publicly traded company which means numbers matter. Profit and growth matter. What better way to make growth happen to keep users “active” after they die.

The idea of replicating a personality is quite interesting. Isn’t that what actors do? They get into a different mind set for each role they play. Well, why is Facebook any less capable? If anything (in theory) they’re much more capable. An actor has to go out and do many hours and days of research on his or her role. Facebook’s research is already done. You have already given them the data. They know your personality, they just have to mirror it.

Facebook can and will intelligently replicate you after your death. Keep your profile active and operating. Think of it. If a dear love one of your’s passes away but their Facebook profile stays and more than that, you can interact. Facebook has grown so intelligent in their data consumption and Ai intelligence that they can easily reproduce your likes, dislikes, tendencies, views, opinions, past experiences, memories, photos, videos etc. You see it is all at their disposal. And don’t be so naive to think the human mind can’t be replicated. Because in reality, their not attempting to replicate your brain. Their attempting and will succeed at replicating your personality.

Who wouldn’t want to do use that service. Who wouldn’t want to ask a dead loved one a question and get a real, intelligently generated response. Of course you would. The kicker would be the accuracy level. It would be immensely sharp. All the data they have stored can easily replicate a person because they already know everything about you. They already know your family, your vacations , your pictures, your videos, your ex girlfriends and boyfriends and your already passed relatives. Your political views, your religious views your opinions on everything from newborn babies to a funeral of close friend. They know you in many ways, in a better more organized manner than you know yourself.

It’s not that this doesn’t scare me. It truly does and I’m not sure why. It could be because were so far along in a tech familiar world that this would just be another feature set of Facebook. Another software update that people just tap “update.” We are extremely numb to things that make our life convenient, me included. Facebook knows this, any tech company knows this.

Which is more horrifically scary? That you can’t delete your account from Facebook, you can only deactivate? Or that in Facebook’s agreement that we all have accepted, they have the right to do whatever they want whenever they want with your information, your photos, etc. Basically paving the way for such a service. It’s almost too simple for them. Its scary world we live in. Not only outside your computer screen, but inside internet servers. Indeed, one day my son will be able to talk to me after I’m dead through the features of Facebook. I just hope I get around to making an updated Facebook account before I die. If not for me, to transcend my content from living to afterlife, from reality to digital. But then again what is reality and what isn’t? Ask Facebook and their answer may surprise you.

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