When the social media site launched a decade ago, it looked very little like it does today. It was entering into an internet not yet defined by social media and sharing. And it was the exclusive club of the country’s young and elite.
There was nothing else like it—and it was cool, basically, because you weren’t allowed in. You saw The Social Network. Savvy nerds made something all the cool kids couldn’t live without.
At first, only college kids at select universities could sign up, and then any college kid could get an account, and then so could your weird aunt and your grandparents and ex-boyfriends and girlfriends who you hadn’t seen in years.
Soon enough, the “cool” social network was just the “big” social network. Which is exactly what Facebook ought to be—big and necessary and immune to the whims of fashion.
One problem with selling cool is that it’s hard to stay cool while also growing. The very thing that made Facebook such a valuable commodity back when it launched would have been impossible for Zuckerberg and Co. to preserve if they ever wanted the site to become something bigger.
It’s one thing to preserve a sense of cool and/or exclusivity with hardware. Apple has done a reasonably good job of this over the years while still growing. But with social media, it’s glaringly obvious that the exclusivity is gone once everybody you know is on your Facebook feed. It’s also free, whereas Apple products cost (too much) money. (Which is part of that same draw.)
The other problem is that we get bored of things. Tastes change. Kids want new music, not that garbage their parents listen to.
So out with the cool and in with the big. What Facebook has become is not so much the exclusive choice of a select few, but an absolute essential piece of everyday life for the masses.
“I’m even more excited about the next ten years than the last,” Zuckerberg writes. “The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.
“Today, only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.
“Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.”
He may be right. Social media has helped people in oppressed countries spark revolutions. The collective knowledge and rapid communication potential of social sharing will almost certainly play a role in myriad problem solving scenarios in the future.
But the “sharing moments” piece of the puzzle is crucial.
The reason so many other social networks have failed to compete head-on with Facebook is simple: Now that everyone’s on Facebook, it’s much easier to just continue sharing those moments here rather than on some new, hip site, no matter how niche or how “cool.” Why share if nobody’s there to receive it?
And while other social networking sites have become popular—Pinterest, etc.—they’re almost always integrated directly into the Facebook experience in some way or another. Most of the “pins” I see are on my Facebook feed.
It’s convenient. Grotesquely convenient. Often annoyingly so.
It’s certainly not cool.
And that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be cool. On its tenth birthday, Facebook can be content in its inevitability.