My big prediction for next year? A giant will fall.
I don’t know which one, but it’s increasingly feeling like while we may not be in a bubble in the same way we were circa 2000 we are in an era where some of the established social networks are growing a bit long in the tooth. Some giant redwoods are looking a little weak, like they may topple or will be the first to go up when a cleansing fire sweeps through the forest. Or something else that can add a third metaphor to this example.
Let’s do some totally without-foundation speculating:
Pinterest: There is almost no chance of Pinterest failing in 2016. It’s growing too fast with the right demographics. If anything, it’s going to get bought by Google, who will want it for its treasure trove of searchable meta-data. ODDS OF FAILURE: Slim to None
Facebook: While it continues to dominate usage and demographics, the number of “Is Facebook Falling Out of Favor” stories – many of which are increasingly backed up by actual research, not just anecdotal evidence based on the writer’s daughter’s seven friends – is growing with each passing year. It may not be the one that actually falls, but its dominance could show definitive signs of slipping in 2016. ODDS OF FAILURE: 1/17,000
Twitter: Again, I don’t actually think Twitter will completely cease to exist in 2016, but what it looks like at the end of the year could be drastically different than its current state. With Jack Dorsey back at the wheel my guess is he will get back in the weeds of product development and really innovate on its look and feel. Considering how fickle Twitter users are – power users love certain core elements while new users find many core elements to be blocks to more frequent usage – these changes could bring about an exodus to something new that attracts people’s attention and which – and this is the important part – has media engagement and advertiser-friendly features built in as opposed to tacked-on. ODDS OF FAILURE: 1/12,000
Instagram: As with Twitter, I don’t think Instagram will fail in 2016, but I do think Facebook will have to figure out how to make the platform slightly more usable as it grows in popularity, changes that could mean Instagram is more closely integrated in the core Facebook product. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it cease to exist as a stand-alone app and be folded into the Facebook app itself even while it retains most of the features that people love. Either that or Facebook will realize they need to accommodate power Instagram users with better management tools, including opening up the API to allow for publishing through enterprise CMS products and so on. ODDS OF FAILURE: 1/11,00
Tumblr: The only way Tumblr dies in 2016 is as the result of an ascending Facebook, which will sneak in at night and put a pillow over its face if its revamped Notes feature actually takes off. There’s a slight chance that continued changes to the platform turn off users at a mass level, but that seems unlikely. Still, there are lots of other publishing platforms out there and if people sense a majority of their friends have migrated elsewhere Tumblr could see a rush to the exit door as active users decline sharply. ODDS OF FAILURE: 1/9,000
Snapchat: What’s holding people to Snapchat? The network of friends they’ve built up. So, as with Tumblr above, if people sense a shift in their friends’ behavior they will head to something new that not only doesn’t feature all the advertising that Snapchat is suddenly inundated with or handles that in a more organic, built-in way. It’s not as if people would be abandoning hard archives of years worth of posts since they don’t exist here. Just as the content on Snapchat is ephemeral, so too are the ties that keep people using it. If a competitor pops up that’s perceived as hipper, the users are gone. ODDS OF FAILURE: 1 / 5,000
Vine: If there’s anything that’s going to fall in 2016 it’s Vine. Let’s be honest, this should never have been a stand-alone app to begin with. And Twitter is already treating Vines much like native video as it is, incorporating them into Moments and other features. There’s no reason for six-second video not to be its own part of the core Twitter experience and this could fall victim to Dorsey’s product tinkering. The trick will be to translate the remaining active user base to Twitter without turning them off in a meaningful way. ODDS OF FAILURE: 1 / 1,000