66 percent of mobile developers believe that it is “likely to very likely” Facebook will be disrupted by a mobile-first social media startup. It doesn’t surprise me whatsoever that mobile developers think their work is the Second Coming of Christ, but taking on Facebook? Well, good luck!
The latest data comes from 5,526 developers surveyed in a report by Appcelerator, a platform for developing mobile (surprise!) and desktop apps using Web technologies. This isn’t a new story; we’ve heard this one before, but nobody has come even close. Yet Appcelerator’s document insists it’s inevitable:
History has proven that major technology shifts can transform customer relationships, businesses, and industries. We saw this happen with the advent of the web, and mobile will be no exception. If mobile developers believe that a new mobile-first entrant can disrupt Facebook, enterprises in mature markets should take heed. Developers are highlighting a cautionary note that all businesses should pay attention to: Mobile has the power to reshape entire industries, and these changes can be swift.
Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Don’t get me wrong: mobile is very important. In fact, it’s arguably more important, in some cases, than desktop. This is a trend that will only continue: mobile devices will grow in significance as they become more and more powerful. The simple fact of the matter is that mobile devices are more personal (thus we are more attached them), they are always with us (they are ubiquitous), and they are becoming more powerful (at a faster rate than PCs did during their emergence).
The idea that Facebook will be disrupted by a social network that debuts solely on mobile is a nice idea, but that’s all it is. Remember Path? Yeah, it’s doing great, but it’s no Facebook.
Then there’s Instagram, which some would argue is a social network that Facebook was forced to buy because of its success as a mobile-first app. This is true, but it’s also worth noting Instagram used Facebook to grow, not to mention it saw its biggest increase in users after Facebook acquired it.
I’m not saying it’s not possible to disrupt Facebook with a mobile-first social app, I just think it’s very unlikely. Now is especially not the time to do it. After all, Facebook recently admitted betting completely on HTML5 was a mistake, and it has only now begun refocusing on mobile: the Android apps have been updated, the iOS apps have also been twice over, and Facebook plans to keep doing so every 4-8 weeks.
The social networking giant is far from standing still; it’s almost at 1 billion users. Some of those users are mobile-only, many use the mobile site as well as the apps, and Facebook is working hard to improve the experience for all of them. If Facebook didn’t have anything in mobile, then I’d agree there’s an opening. That’s not the case.
More broadly, the world is still desktop first, and then mobile second. A service running in a full desktop browser can do more than a mobile app running on your mobile device. It thus makes sense to develop all your features on the desktop, and then slowly port over what’s necessary to mobile. Actually, there are many reasons why you should do it the other way, but the result won’t disrupt Facebook.
Soon there will be a time when you can use your mobile device(s) exclusively and avoid the desktop altogether. It will take much longer for most users to do this, but many geeks have already started.
Social networks are about critical mass. Mobile has long surpassed critical mass. Mobile-first is nowhere near.
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