How Much Longer Will Facebook Be Relevant?

So the question is—will Facebook be able to outpace its dropping popularity with new features and new applications, or is it doomed to the same fate as its predecessors?

For years, Facebook has been the golden child of social media. It’s outlived obsolete competitors like MySpace, it’s held a wider audience and greater utility than contemporaries like Twitter, and it’s even circulating enough advertising to make it a truly profitable company.

By all accounts, it’s one of the biggest powerhouses in tech, rivaling Google and Apple in terms of brand visibility, functional scope, and even earning potential.

But as we’ve learned from the digital world, not every great tech breakthrough lasts forever — in fact, most are merely fads, destined to die within years. Brands like MySpace and Yahoo, which are still around but are shadows of their former selves, are evidence of this.

Facebook’s popularity among teens and young adults is dropping consistently, year after year, yet they’re constantly trying to introduce new functionality and unearth new streams of revenue.

And, if it can outpace its falling popularity, how long will it be able to last?

The Popularity Problem

Obviously, as long as Facebook continues to have a dedicated user base, it will continue to remain relevant as a social media platform. Despite dropping popularity numbers among teens, it still has a dominant retention rate for users already signed up for the application. Still, if the next few generations consistently avoid Facebook in favor of newer, more innovative apps, it won’t be long before Facebook finds itself outdone.

There are three main reasons Facebook is falling out of style.

Trust and Safety

Because Facebook has taken some major hits from its privacy policy and concerns over the permanence of material posted on the platform, many users—not just teens—are avoiding the use of the platform. In order to keep their messages more private and rest assured that their personal information isn’t going to be used for unsavory purposes, people are venturing to more discreet, more confidential platforms for expression and interaction.

Evolving Engagement

The ways people are interacting with each other online are evolving. Facebook was created in an era when Internet access relied on a desktop or laptop computer, and the majority of shared experiences online were in text or link format. Today, everyone has at a tiny computer in their pocket –a smartphone—and can access a camera or video recorder at any time. People want to share their worlds visually, immediately, and easily—and while Facebook doesn’t lack these capabilities, there are other platforms that do this better.

An Old-World Image

You know teenagers. If their parents are doing something, it must be uncool. Today, most teenagers’ parents are using Facebook regularly, meaning teenagers are distancing themselves from the platform accordingly. Believe it or not, Facebook is starting to earn itself an image of being an “old world” technology, doomed to the kind of obsolescence that MySpace once faced in the breadth of new competition.

Facebook’s New Changes

Facebook isn’t taking this drop in popularity lying down. They’re listening to their users and are striving to make meaningful changes to the business and to the platform. In time, these changes could help sustain Facebook as a long-term player like Google or Apple, but they could also be the last-ditch efforts of a company doomed to irrelevance.

Integrated Video

Soon, Facebook will support videos shot with 360-degree cameras, including support for Oculus VR headsets. This is a major step forward for the app and could revolutionize the ways that people share experiences on the platform. It certainly meets the needs of younger audiences who need more visual, immediate ways of sharing information and experiences, but it’s still uncertain whether it will be as functional or as useful as some other competing apps.