Why Facebook enjoys explosive growth - despite its many stumbles
Facebook's staggering growth rolls over critics on issues from ease of use to user privacy.
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In October, Columbia Pictures is set to release "The Social Network," a movie that dramatizes early conflicts between Zuckerberg and his Facebook cofounders. ("You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies," reads the tag line.)Skip to next paragraph
The arrival of "The Social Network" has been heralded by some as bad news for Facebook, but it might be more aptly viewed as evidence of the centripetal force that Facebook now plays in American culture. After all, it's hard to imagine any studio trotting out a movie version of the founding of IMDb.com.
"I definitely think Facebook is criticproof," says Ben Mezrich, author of "The Accidental Billionaires," which serves as the inspiration for "The Social Network." "It's such a huge part of our lives, it's such a quickly growing company, that any critique falls flat. Unless [the Facebook staff] does something really phenomenally stupid, and I can't see for the life of me what that would be, a certain age group is going to keep using the site. That's the brilliance of Facebook."
For the time being, the majority of media watchers are inclined to agree with Mr. Mezrich, if only because there is no social-media challenger currently robust enough to knock Facebook off its perch.
MySpace has seen its traffic erode sharply over the past couple of years. Twitter is, well, too Twittery – it's treated by most users as a broadcasting service or an advertising platform, rather than a fully functioning network.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Google is developing a new social-media service, but the details are vague, and in the best-case scenario, it would be several years before Google could hope to rival Facebook's hold on the market. (Google launched Orkut in 2004, which never really gained traction in the US but grew very popular in Brazil and India.)
"Facebook has been able to achieve scale in a way that no social network before it has done," says Adam Ostrow, editor in chief of the social-media blog Mashable. "In other words, most of your family, friends, and co-workers are already on there, making the cost of switching to something else – or turning it off entirely – way too high right now, at least if you want to be kept up to date."
That hasn't stopped a handful of scrappy developers from trying to kick-start their own Facebook-killers. The highest profile of the bunch is the team behind Diaspora, which is being billed as "a privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network."