Facebook is Passé. Pt. 2 – Here Comes the Mob(ile) and Those that Do no Evil!


I Say: Facebook is not a mobile network.

You Say: WTF!!? Call yourself a serious blogger – Facebook has 200 million mobile users – roughly 40% of its users access using mobile devices. Also Facebook’s launch of Zero – Facebook’s lite text-centric version – proves it’s serious about the mobile space.

But I am making a different point. A mobile social network to me is different from mobile access of a conventional social network.

The userbase, features, functionalities, and the value proposition are distinct from conventional social networks.

smartphone tablet PC shipments

Let’s take a step back and examine fundamental differences in mobile vs. PC/Laptop usage behaviours:

1. Impulse

Mobiles work great for spur of the moment actions. It’s an always on, always with you device – the thought to action cycle is rapid and mostly uninterrupted, unless it’s your boss or significant other who is hollering at you!

2. Convenience

No BIOS sequence, no Windows is updating Registry files…  And shopping or making payments (soon in India) is a breeze compared to if you were doing it on a PC.

3. Synchronicity

A voice call by definition is synchronous; Text messages get uncannily answered way faster than an e-mail or a comment on someone’s Wall. The only time PC/Laptop users are really synchronous is when they are on Chat.

4. Form Factor/UI

Long a bugbear of mobile devices for more complex and immersive experiences, this is now no longer the case.  Especially, if you include an IPad or any tablet in your definition of a mobile device and it’s a whole new ball game!

Now let’s examine some applications and use cases of mobile networks:

  • Chat: Before Facebook or Orkut came along wasn’t your default social network Chat – Gtalk/Yahoo/MSN? Those chats were synchronous. One of the most popular mobile networks isMig33 and QQ messenger trumps Facebook in China. Btw, Facebook chat sucks.
  • Instant Polling: So it’s a Friday evening, a bunch of friends working in different places across town want to fix a watering hole to meet at. What are you going to do – voice conference people? Use Facebook’s polling option on your Wall and wait for people to indicate preference? Or push out a poll on everyone’s mobile screens and get instant feedback.
  • Event-driven Social Networks: Following on from Pt.1 of the post, where I emphasized the fact that it’s not just friends = social networks, people also enter into certain temporary but high focus social networks.

Watch a match at a stadium with 50-60,000 people.  Attend a business conference with 3-  4,000 delegates. Marketers looking to get people to participate and engage at events are  going to want a real-time, always on social network and organizers of such event will value the deeper experience and engagement that participants will be involved in.

Augmented Reality gaming: Just as social games took off once they had the right platform with SNS, better mobile networks and mobile devices will power an augmented reality gaming revolution allowing people to combine real and virtual activities – at parks, zoos, festivals!

Mobile devices and the mobile internet will become the primary rather than secondary way for us to go social, and in a real time synchronous way – Facebook better watch out!

And now to the threat from Google!

Though momentum is currently with Zuckerberg and co., they need to carefully consider the following:

1. Google dwarfs Facebook in ad revenues. This is not Sex Therapy 101. Size Matters. Currently that is approx. $20 billion for Google vs. $2.5 billion for Facebook.

2. Google drives Android – the open source mobile OS. In the context of mobile devices and mobile networks that is a huge advantage. It’s also a revenue stream that will scale rapidly.

3. Google has a stake in Zynga. How many people would watch a TV channel if all their hit shows went off air. Facebook’s Achilles heel is that its top properties all come from the Zynga stable – a company where Google has made a hush-hush investment.

4. Facebook may be the social network but Google is my internet ecosystem. Browser – Chrome, Instant Messenger – Gtalk, Mobile Phone OS – Android ( and Chrome OS), Youtube, Blogger, Desktop Search etc. etc. – I just have more Google Friends in my computing ecosystem than Facebook.

Google Innovation
[Image src: Benzinga.com]

What do you think? Will mobile networks be radically different from current ones? Does Google still have what it takes to to stave off the challenge of the brash new upstart? Or will the new David beat the new Goliath? Comments are open!

This is the second article in the series – Facebook is Passé – You can read the first part here

  1. Jessie says

    I think perhaps the demographics for Facebook are shifting. I see more and more middle aged and seniors using Facebook. These are often people who refuse to buy tablets, iPads or even smart phones. Maybe they own a Nook or use free Skype, but those are sort of the daring ones among their age group. Their demographic is not really driving ad revenues, or so I’m told.

  2. Sarang says

    I do agree for one simple point: Facebook’s revenues are from online ads. On mobiles, the ads don’t work that well. I myself hate apps that show ads on my small screen. For a true mobile network, the revenue has to come from some place else.

    Some more points to consider: mobiles are the largest electronic social network today w/ 5billion users. FB dwarfs in comparison. Mobiles are used each and every day and life w/o mobiles cannot be comprehended. FB cannot even come close. India has 750 million mobile subscriptions, how many can FB boast of? There is life outside of FB and I feel there is too much to be done outside of FB. This is a huge market waiting to be captured.

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Sarang – Valid points….Question to be asked is – Can FB progress to become a Mobile Social Network targeted at Mobile users, the way Mig33 is… I think they can…and very easily with the power of money they have…

      1. Sarang says

        “very easily with the power of money they have”..

        If money could do everything..
        1. microsoft would have had the best search engine today with max traffic
        2. Google would have the No. 1 social network
        3. AOL would have been the king of ISP
        and the list goes on.

        The point is money cannot do things. FB chat on mobile sucks. Don’t they have the money to fix it? It dosn’t work that way. MySpace/Orkut had plenty of money and still they could not stop the FB juggernut!

        FB will stay or not, only future will tell. FB is the largest, but not “the” social network people have today. Its just another medium for sharing – a good one too!

  3. hollowclaims says

    You serious about it ? Facebook is Passe ? Dream on…

    1. Rajit Ojha says

      @hollowclaims – I am sure you thought the Soviet Union would never collapse, that GM would never become Government Motors, and Atari would rule the video game industry forever.

      Never say never in the business and the internet technology space!

  4. Mahek says


    Well thought-out and written article – But it looks like you are trying to make up reasons to bring Facebook down.

    Do you really think Facebook does not have a Solid Mobile Strategy ?
    Do you really think that close to 100 Billion Dollar valuated company does not have a sound mobile strategy ?
    Do you really think FB does not have plans to make a Chat / Polling / events and all that you have mentioned more user friendly for Mobile users.

    You are living in a dreamworld if you think Facebook is Passe !!

    Though, I appreciate you going against the whole world and putting across the point of FB becoming obsolete… some food for thought…

    1. Rajit Ojha says


      Thank you for reading the whole thing and your comments are well taken. I have a simple point – there are certain social networks for whom mobile is in their DNA e.g. Foursquare. Then there are others for whom mobile is an adjunct. I think Facebook falls in the latter category.

      Also it was a 2-part argument. Look at the way Google’s Android is giving serious competition to the iPhone – and they just have lots of money to burn – what if they acquired Foursqaure for e.g.

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