- 22 Feb 08, 11:20 GMT
Facebook - it's so over. That's been the tenor of most of the commentary since Thursday's figures showing a slight dip in Facebook's UK users. The general feeling is that the kids, with their minute attention spans, have already tired of the social networking site and moved on to something more hip and happening. I think the opposite is true - that Facebook's new wave of older users have decided it is just not worth the bother and are now leaving it to the kids.
Facebook was already well established on every student campus in Spring 2007, when it grabbed the attention of the London media. Suddenly every national newspaper and broadcaster was desperate to write about it - and I was one of the worst offenders. Stories I did for the Radio 4 Today programme and for this website asked whether people like me were too old for social networking. They got a bigger response than just about anything I have ever written, with over a thousand people getting in touch to assure me that socialising online was not just for students. I soon found myself connecting with hundreds of people on Facebook - many of whom I did not know from Adam - and rather enjoyed this new virtual social life.
I suspect the same thing was happening in newsrooms - and other workplaces - across Britain, as an older generation decided that if the kids were finding it impossible to run their lives without Facebook, it must be worth trying. That all helped propel Mark Zuckerberg's company to the top of the social networking league in the UK, with 8.9 million users by the end of 2007. But by then I was already finding that many of my wrinklier Facebook friends had tired of the ceaseless vampire-biting, hugging, poking and other daft aspects of the increasingly cluttered and annoying site. Their status updates started to say "...falling out of love with Facebook" and then they disappeared altogether.
But I see no signs that on the campuses where it all started Facebook fatigue has set in. A few weeks ago I did a story with a student who was having trouble deleting his MySpace account - but when I suggested that he delete his Facebook profile too, he was not keen. For him, and hundreds of thousands like him, a student social life was still dependent on Facebook.
I'm still using Facebook - though less compulsively than before - but I suspect that most of the over-25 age group will now find they can live without it. That still leaves a large core audience, but one that Facebook may find slightly harder to sell to the advertisers on whom its future depends. And that means that $15bn valuation that Microsoft put on the business when it bought a small stake last year looks more fanciful than ever.
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