As Facebook turns 10 , we take a look at its resilient journey
When Dubai resident Haley Dominic crashed her car against a pillar near Ibn Battuta Mall’s parking lot, she took her smart phone out to take pictures of the accident. “Since another person hadn’t caused the accident, I took a photograph for insurance purposes. However, it was my seven-year-old son Kevin’s reaction that really shocked me,” said Haley.
When his mother was viewing the pictures on her phone, Kevin’s advice to his mom was : “Upload the picture on fb.”
This little reaction, in essence, defines what Facebook means to its users.
For a company that took shape in its founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dormitory room, Facebook has gone on to become a habit for most of its users. Today, the social networking website turns 10. Initially called ‘The Facebook’, the site went live on February 4, 2004, in Zuckerberg’s Harvard University dorm room, and since then, has grown to become a global service with more 1.2 billion monthly active users. 
For many, Facebook is still a platform where people primary share photographs and communicate with friends. For some, it is the best way to find out what their favourite celebrities have been up to, and some others find the game applications attractive.
Academicians are using Facebook to ‘help students learn better’; and companies use it as a marketing tool that provides mass brand recognition.
On completing 10 years, Zuckerberg said: “It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. It’s been amazing to see how people have used Facebook to build a real community and help each other in so many ways. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and responsibility to connect everyone and to keep serving the community as best we can.”
The truth is everyone you know is on Facebook, and those who are not, are either mistrustful of its security settings or, are ‘too cool to be on Facebook’. For all the success it has enjoyed in the last decade, the networking website did admit that the number of teenagers signing up has declined.
Khaleej Times looks into what local experts think is the future of the social networking site.
Constant innovation could be the key to success, even though Facebook management is confident that the product will continue to grow. Jonathan Labin, head of Facebook for Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, said Facebook would continue as the core of people’s online social world.
“Facebook is a platform and how it looks and functions is determined, in large part, by what the people who use it want to do with it. We simply give them the tools to connect with the people and things that matter to them, in different ways,” said Labin. “People will always use a range of online services, but we believe in constantly innovating and creating things that are useful to people.”
Prof Christopher Abraham, senior vice president, institutional development, professor of leadership, organisational behaviour and social media marketing, and head of marketing for SP Jain School of Global Management, said the challenge for Facebook is two-fold: Monetisation and competition. “They have competition from Google Plus, and if you look at Plus numbers, it is rapidly rising. They are under constant stress to come back with a better product,” said Abraham. “World technology is moving so fast; what is relevant today might become redundant in maximum two to three years. Unless you are continuously innovating, you could run out of business.”
“Youngsters are hooked on, but it’s something of a fad. Obviously if something better comes along, it could be a problem for the networking site,” he added.
Most users Khaleej Times spoke to said the possibility of Facebook dying out is slim, unless better technology takes over.
Sri Lankan national Deepak Chandrisingh, 26, is not a Facebook user. “People will eventually get bored of it. If you look at it, Instagram is a much better application,” he said.
Indian national Priya Roy, 25, however, disagreed and said: “Unless something new comes up, the chances of people quitting Facebook is very slim.”
In a survey conducted last year, Facebook users revealed that 78 per cent of its US users use it on their mobile phones. Labin said: “We already have Facebook Messenger and are about to launch an app called Paper that is a different way to consume pictures, updates and articles. Other services will also continue using Facebook to add social features — so more products like Spotify and Netflix — where you can share great content with friends.”
Responses from KT online
Has Facebook come at a cost? Has it destroyed face-to-face interaction? We asked our audience online and got a mixed response.
“Not really an addiction… it’s a necessity… it has helped connect with lost friends, relatives, it has made life simpler… you know what your friends are up to, which you wouldn’t otherwise, if you only depend on SMS and phone calls,” wrote Nitasha.
“As far as living without it is concerned, it would be difficult, but not impossible,” said Fatima Suhail.
Some even went on to defend the website. “It’s good for people who are not able to express face-to-face, and can chat/text freely and interact on such sites,” wrote Sumit Sethi.
The website had its share of detractors too. “It’s very sad to hear that most people are using Facebook for wrong reasons, such as extramarital affairs,” wrote Gisha Binu Panakkal.
“I’d say Facebook is not our world. It’s a very small part of it. Don’t live life for Facebook. People are doing things with the intention of uploading it on Facebook and how the people will react to it,” said Mohsin Khan.
He was seconded by Gaurav Sahu, who said: “It is a waste of time. If I want to keep in touch with family and friends, I will call them or write an email. I don’t need to show the world.”
So whether Facebook is good or bad is up to you to decide, but the website, without spending a penny on advertising for most of its life, surely has everyone talking about it.
Social media marketing
About 7.5 million promoted posts were recorded from June 2012 to May 2013 and companies are using Facebook to the maximum potential to get their brand across to the consumers.
Shahil Abdullah, business development manager at Brandevous, a Dubai-based Internet marketing consultancy firm, said: “We train companies to do social media marketing in-house. We work on a consultant capacity based on the marketing objectives of each company. Social media marketing is anyway very popular and in Dubai, our services are very popular, especially among new companies here,” said Shahil.
“One of the main reasons that social media marketing got popular among users here is because of the surge in use of smart phones and people spend a lot of time on their smart phones. When companies approach us for our services, we recommend social media marketing as a tool to them because it generates better results and the response is more first-hand.”
With inputs from Anupam Varma, Online editor