Social Monopoly: How Facebook Created a Market Without Competitors

Social Monopoly: How Facebook Created a Market Without Competitors

We're all addicted to one network and it doesn't look like that's going to change


Even for those of us who have been on Facebook since it was a collection of exclusive school networks, it's hard to imagine the site without its news feed, status updates and signature "Like" button. But the mechanics that make the social network so disgustingly addictive were surprisingly late additions to its host of features. 

I remember when pretty much all you could do on Facebook was post on people's walls and look at their pictures. Somehow, I get the feeling that Zuckerberg and company had many of Facebook's current features in mind from the beginning, only rolling them out gradually to secure momentum and increase signups. Now that Facebook has become a central component of maintaining an online identity, it seems the need for the company to improve upon its product has dwindled. There's not really much more Facebook can do to fuel our manic social consumption. But will they ever fall from their towering monopoly on social media? 

So far, the only new companies to even approach something like Facebook have been content-based, not personality-based. Recent upstarts Tumblr and Pinterest found their niche by letting people create and organize content. But Facebook requires no such creative input on the part of its users. It isn't blogging. You don't have to think yourself interesting or creative to use it. You just have to extend your personality into the internet. Anyone can do that.

Google has made a few valiant efforts to secure some of the personality-sharing market, but they simply couldn't keep up. You'd need a lot of user signups right off the bat to compete with the world's default network. Facebook succeeds because everyone you know is constantly contributing to it. Without that rate of content, no other network could conceivably come close to being the better Facebook. 

It's interesting to note that the site whose initial appeal lay in its exclusivity now succeeds on the basis of its universality. But Facebook tapped into the right cultural needs at the right time. If Google couldn't pull the plug on our Facebook addiction, it seems highly unlikely that any other company could come along and compete. The only question that remains regarding Facebook's future is whether we'll all get sick of social consumption itself. Given that we're being steered into an increasingly voyeuristic and exhibitionist culture, it doesn't seem likely that we'll be giving up our "Share" buttons or our "Like" thumbs anytime soon.