By Charles Kelly, President, Computer Exchange
Have you noticed that many companies, especially small businesses, have a Facebook page instead of a web page? Have you realized that now you might search Facebook first rather than Google to find exactly what you need?
Have you started using Facebook instead of text messaging yet? It’s pretty convenient, as apparently people check Facebook a lot more often than they do email.
On Facebook, and the internet in general, what once was an easy click now involves ads loading for several seconds, making your next click a moving target and if you miss… well, you just clicked on an advertisement and that was no accident. Welcome to the maturing of the internet, meaning the truly free is hard to find.
There is still much freedom on the internet, but it is becoming clogged with advertisements and rabbit trails that take you to places you don’t want to go – some of those fall into the category of adware and then comes scareware and viruses.
But back to Facebook…as I found myself reaching for my phone 20 times a day, I stopped to ask myself why. Instead, I often turned to Facebook. Facebook to boost a business post, Facebook to check in on my family, my friends, my acquaintances and all of their friends as well.
I also found myself searching for businesses in my area or restaurant menus and joining a dozen “Yard Sale No Rules” “Augusta Barter Kings” and every variation thereof. I mixed in a text messaging app, so that now I use Facebook to text and message. Now if I am trying to find someone, I just check Facebook first.
Facebook is the new Yellow Pages, the 8,000-pound gorilla in the market for eyeballs and eyes on ads.
I was startled to hear an analyst mention the possibility of breaking Facebook up because of the enormous power and market share it has, but that is very unlikely as this was tried with Microsoft 15 years ago and it never actually happened.
The fact is, Facebook is an enormous force. It does have a near monopoly in some ways and is growing ever more powerful. They solved the “mobile ad” problem years ago. Everyone said, well, people mostly look at Facebook on their phones and that was true. Now phones are bigger, ads are faster and Facebook is just fine with it if you never go near your desktop.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Facebook has miscalculated “average duration of video viewed” time for the last two years. It seems like they did not count videos that were viewed for less than three seconds in their metrics, which seems like a trivial thing, but in this instance it significantly skewed one metric that advertisers used to make decisions. Facebook did reveal the error, albeit in the relatively small print of the ad users metrics page, but the Wall Street Journal picked up on the small print and so did lot of other tech news companies.
Facebook is the friendly giant so far. For many end users, it has become their home page – or even the internet to them in the same way that many found the internet through the AOL browser in the early 1990s. As of second quarter of this year, Facebook has around 1.7 billion active users.
I guess many people find a compelling reason to be on Facebook and I doubt that we will see a tenfold drop in users over the next 15 years that AOL saw over the last 15 years. What might be in 15 years, by 2031? I have no idea, but Facebook could be the world leader then or hanging on to a dwindling few million users. Let’s hope they use their power and their vast attention of eyeballs in a meaningful and fair way for advertisers and consumers alike.
Transparency for the advertisers and a reasonably navigable platform that is engaging, fun and safe for the users is the tightrope they walk. If Facebook loses their balance they have a long, long way to fall and they should remember that people are very loyal to companies they love or are simply very comfortable and familiar with, like the 2.3 million people who still use AOL.
People also take privacy, security and transparency very seriously, especially in the digital age when ad metrics should be based on factual and transparent data and freedom of speech is a founding principle of our nation. Facebook must be careful and we, the users and advertisers on Facebook, have a duty to hold them to task when they make mistakes or missteps.
So far, so good for Facebook, as far as I can tell, or I wouldn’t be going straight to Facebook. I find that I am taking breaks from my phone for as long as two or three hours at a time (I make sure to get to a full-sized screen for anything important that might require typing instead of tapping).
For the record, I do venture outside of Facebook for much of what I do even as I realize that I reach for my phone far too often when I am surrounded by computers. I have discovered the fantastic new full-screen Facebook with features I never knew existed!
For my old friends that I am trying to look up, please get yourself a Facebook page. It’s the Yellow Pages of today.
Charles Kelly is President of Computer Exchange, with four locations in the CSRA: South Augusta, North Augusta, Martinez and Grovetown. Computer Exchange specializes in computer solutions for home and business. For answers to your computer questions, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.