I like how Douglas Rushkoff thinks. In an article on The Daily Beast, he says Facebook–which is offering its 200 million users the chance to adopt a custom URL for the first time on Saturday–is about to become the new AOL and fall on its non-proverbial face.
Facebook must be hoping the name change will not only make the site more user friendly, but also get people to start thinking of their Facebook pages as their public faces for both personal and business activities: true home pages.
That’s a problem. Facebook’s relative detachment from the Internet is not a bug, but a feature. Its only competitive advantage in the Internet space–its only reason for being–was that it was more personal, more closed off, and arguably more private than the Internet itself. Even then, the biggest problem has never been how to get people to find you, but how to not friend many of those who do. Now that we’ll be quickly findable via Google, what’s left to distinguish this social-networking site from the social network that is… the Internet?
Rushkoff reminds us that “the Internet is littered with quickly fallen giants. They all appear to be permanent features of the digital landscape–Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, Napster, CompuServe–until they’re not.”
Personally, I’m on Facebook because I feel obligated to be there. I see some of the site’s positives, but I also see its downsides. Facebook is a good means of finding and reconnecting with old friends, but I recall a time when “411″ and an overdue phone call did the trick. I wouldn’t mind returning to that place and time.