Famously, Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” And I wonder if this is also true about Facebook. Some have suggested that it is destined for demise, but its legacy of consumer engagement and empowerment is here to stay. History is the best lesson here.
The magic began in 2004—for many, a lifetime ago—when Facebook launched into our reality. In those early days, the value of connectivity and outreach was the central theme. The backroom data collection and tactics that followed were off the radar of most informed and uninformed influencers who built brands, empires, and bank accounts from this powerful new tool called social media. And the emergence of Facebook was part of the big bang of technology that transformed society and drove change at what many refer to as an “exponential” rate. Things changed fast. And with this came the lexicon of innovation that included terms like fail fast, pivot, and disruption.
Giants are meant to die. A look back at prior Fortune 500 companies reveals this startling reality. Nearly 9 of 10 companies on the list in 1955 are gone. They were simply closed or gobbled up by other innovators and newer members on this illustrious list. But this look back reveals less about failed businesses and so much more of a view of innovation and transformation. It’s not simply a failure, but a turnover that drives our economy.
The early movers in a marketplace can often become the dominant player, but commonly, they are also the ones who stumble. Sometimes, it’s a function of issues that are less related to their core business, but more so to the human side of running a company: greed and arrogance. In politics, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Here we may begin to see the cancer at Facebook that might have metastasized. Also, the market-driven “punctuated equilibrium” of innovation can rapidly make business carnivores into dinosaurs. Driven by technological obsolesce, arrogance, or a combination of both, the “meteor strike” changes the environment quickly and irrevocably. Zuckerberg himself, data privacy, Cambridge Analytica, and a disenchanted audience have all cast a new light on Facebook. But what comes out of the shadows will be something new and exciting.
So, mourn not the blacksmith, the horse and buggy, and the Kodaks of the world. They are—as almost everything is—a transitory state that is the fodder for disruption, innovation, and the sparkling reality we call the future.