When it comes to the internet, there is one guarantee: nothing stays the same forever. Facebook, the world's dominant social media platform, is fast finding that out as users in mature markets increasingly abandon it. The nine-year-old website is still hugely popular, so it is wrong to proclaim that an era has ended; innovation and ingenuity could well reverse the trend. The data does serve as a reminder to companies, though, that humanity can be fickle, making it a bad idea to put excessive focus on a single online resource.
With more than a billion users, Facebook is not hurting for attention or facing financial difficulties. Analysts believe its profits for the first quarter will be up 36 per cent on the same period last year. But independent studies show that in North America, some countries in Europe and in Japan, millions of people a month are no longer taking the time to log in. A considerable percentage appears to be younger users.
Anecdotal explanations abound, from migration to simpler and less intrusive platforms to mobile devices and apps being the preferred way to use social media. With generations of families having joined Facebook, prying eyes and scrutiny are driving teenagers to other places to connect and share. There is also the "cool" factor to consider. Whenever something becomes too popular, those wanting to stand out from the pack turn to that which is new or different. Apart from the well-established Twitter, there are rivals like Pheed, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat to contend with.
The online world is about information, choice, creativity, innovation and making life easier and more interesting. Improved technology means that there will always be new and better ways to attain goals. People and companies that invest time, energy and funding in social media that they do not have full content control of need to think carefully about what they are doing. For those in business, diversification is wise; so is knowing that what works today may not do so tomorrow.