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Edward Snowden created quite a storm this past summer when he leaked classified information regarding the NSA’s surveillance programs.  Many major companies were immediately shoved into the spotlight, and people demanded answers that could not be answered.  One such company was Facebook.

Facebook’s rise to power over the past decade is well documented.  The social network site (SNS) has been steadily growing its member base.  Today, there are over 1 billion Facebook users.  However, history has a tendency to repeat itself.  Before Facebook, every major SNS had experienced a period of dominance before eventually crashing and burning.  When I was in elementary, I experimented with Xanga.  By middle school, I was on MySpace.  And by the beginning of high school, I had a Facebook account.  This leads me to wonder, will Facebook ever suffer the same fate as all these other SNS?  After all, Facebook’s closest competitor, Google Plus, is nowhere near close in terms of user numbers and general awareness.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user MEL197127.

A recent article I read tied in the Snowden leaks to Facebook’s status as the dominant SNS.  And some of the information that author cited was startling.  I was shocked to learn that approximately half of the people who leave Facebook cite privacy concerns.  And the amount of people abandoning Facebook is no joke – millions are deserting the site.  These statistics were just the tip of the iceberg.

Throughout the rest of the article, the author made some pretty bold claims based off circumstantial evidence.  But his statements resonated with the conspiracist inside me.  I’d like to think that user privacy still exists on Facebook and the web in general, but given the events this past summer, we all know this is unfortunately false.  While these companies and organizations try to deny violating privacy agreements, all evidence seems to indicate otherwise.  All this leads me back to the question I proposed earlier.  Will Facebook ever suffer the same fate as all these other SNS?  Will the number of people leaving Facebook accelerate?  Or is the current exodus of users just a temporary fad that will eventually pass?

The trade-off of privacy for networking is one that is difficult to make.  While I am willing to pay with my privacy to keep in touch with friends through Facebook, I know others who are not.  As the article’s title suggests, privacy  may become a selling point.  I think it is  possible and likely that SNS in the future will use privacy as a feature to potentially steal users from Facebook.  However, this future is still years away.  To quote the author one final time, “It’s as arrogant to talk of Facebook’s demise, as it is to deny the prediction of history that Facebook will, at some point, be replaced by something else.”

All that’s left to do is to wait and see.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr cbhdesign.

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