Rumours of the demise of social media still wide of the mark

Plenty of social networking sites have come and gone and have been revamped, reinvented or replaced.

Social media: Skye Townsend, an American actor whose videos of herself mimicking Beyonce are popular on the social media website Vine, records a clip in Los Angeles. Vine, where clips are limited to six seconds and run on a loop, has become something like a next-generation YouTube. Photograph: J Emilio Flores/New York Times

Social media: Skye Townsend, an American actor whose videos of herself mimicking Beyonce are popular on the social media website Vine, records a clip in Los Angeles. Vine, where clips are limited to six seconds and run on a loop, has become something like a next-generation YouTube. Photograph: J Emilio Flores/New York Times

Thu, May 15, 2014, 01:10

If you believe the doomsayers, the golden era of social media is coming to an end for the current crop of services.

For some time now, people have been predicting the end of Facebook’s dominance, as younger users shun the social network in favour of services like Snapchat. Despite the 1.28 billion active monthly users that have signed up for the service, experts are lining up to forecast its death as it becomes (they say) increasingly irrelevant.

In February, Twitter revealed its user numbers were falling and it had failed to keep up with projected targets.

Instead of 400 million monthly active users by the end of 2013 as it expected, the service had only reached 255 million by the end of March this year. That’s still a 25 per cent increase year on year, but nowhere near the dizzy heights the company had expected.

Google+, meanwhile, is being described as a dead end for the company, a doomed project that is simply begging to have the plug pulled.

While it hasn’t quite unseated Facebook from its social networking throne, at the last count in October 2013, it had 540 million active users using at least one Google+ service, with 300 million users active in “the stream”.

The service suffered a blow last month when Vic Gundotra, the man behind Google+, said he was stepping down, sparking speculation about the future of the project.

However, don’t expect Twitter or Facebook to go anywhere soon. Unlike some of these services, the firms are still increasing their user numbers, despite predictions of their demise.



Google Wave
A service that may have been a bit ahead of its time, Google Wave was billed as a new communications platform. While it had its fans, Wave left the average user more than a little confused.

It mixed elements of email with collaborative tools so you could work on projects, share messages and send photos and videos to friends.

You could even add polls. There was live typing, so you could see what your collaborators were adding as they were doing it. It seemed like a great idea.

The only problem was that no one really got it. Maybe it was too complex, but only one million people were using it so the inevitable happened: Wave got shut down in 2010 and people tend to forget it ever existed.



Google Buzz
Which brings us nicely along to Google Buzz. (What is it about Google and failed social projects?)

It began in 2010, billed as a new way to start conversations about things that interested you, before fizzling out more than a year later.

It didn’t get off to a great start. The very things that Google thought would appeal to users were actually the most criticised.

The tight integration with Gmail accounts, the ability to share anything easily and Google’s decision to automatically set up Gmail users to follow posts from users that they interacted with over email caused an immediate backlash from users who were worried about their privacy.

And rightly so; it emerged that less- than-stringent privacy settings had accidentally revealed the locations of users, including one case where a woman’s abusive ex was alerted to her location.

It was a bit of a PR minefield for the tech giant. Google Buzz died off officially in December 2011 as the company switched its focus to Google+.

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