Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the social media space, with some 200 million members, a valuation of perhaps $5 billion and a base that has expanded well beyond its early roots as a private hangout for bored Ivy League students.
But, like the ad says, life comes at you fast — and there is nothing more unforgiving than internet time. So, are the best years ahead for Facebook, or is the finicky mob of cool kids — and now their parents and grandparents — already peering down the road for another Next Great Thing?
One thing is for sure: Nothing lasts forever. We need Microsoft, perhaps, but nobody gets very excited about it anymore (except maybe a hyperactive Steve Ballmer). AOL? They could do no wrong when dial-up was king. But when broadband made competitors out of the telcos AOL had leveraged to create an onramp to the internet, a steady decline into near oblivion began.
The internet roadside is littered with bold ideas hatched too early or denied a dignified death. David Wetherell was considered a bold genius when, in 1999, he turned up his nose at a deal that would have valued his internet incubator CMGI at about $18 billion. Fast Forward to 2009: CMGI is now ModusLink Global Solutions, and worth about 1/100th that.