There was a time when we all thought Facebook could just rest on its laurels, watching social network wannabes (and even fairly on-par competitors) attempt to steal a fraction of its user base. Facebook clearly had a firm, unwavering grip on our loyalty, and no matter the frustrations or even outrage it caused us, our digital identities and communities were so ingrained in the site that leaving would be worse than staying. And yes, that is a phrase you often use to describe returning to an abusive relationship.
But that may no longer be the case. Part of Facebook’s incredible success can be attributed to timing: Its launch targeted an audience that had been raised with the Internet and was accustomed to experimenting with social platforms. Of course, it’s brilliant design and attention to social applications is why they stuck with it. But we’re growing up and older, and there are ample entrepreneurs who are designing applications to utilize everything the Internet can do–and some of them are really, really good.
In particular, mobile-social apps have a leg up on Facebook. The social network got its start before smartphones had become the extension of ourselves that they are now, and has somewhat had to play catch up with the mobile platform. But apps like Instagram, which has seen monumental growth, capitalized on this market from its origin. And of course, the launch of Google+ has been enough to reportedly make Facebook sweat a little.
And for this, we owe them a little thanks. Facebook’s recent privacy and sharing overhaul can at least partially be attributed to pressure from Google+’s tighter security measures and Circles application. Facebook claims it’s been working on the updates since before the new social network’s launch, but it seems foolish to believe that some of the most-lauded G+ features translated into Facebook terms is a coincidence.
One of the other elements G+ boasted over Facebook was its photo-sharing client. While Facebook is the world’s most popular platform, it’s being outdone by competitors. G+’s built-in editors and interesting layout are eye-catching, and mobile apps that create their own social network based on photos are incredibly popular right now. Apparently this is something Facebook knows: The company tried to acquire Instagram this summer, and failed. Now it’s going to be building its own filters for its mobile app, an ingenious move. We’ve long called for Facebook to offer some sort of included photo editor, and installing this into its app is the right move.
Everybody knows that competition is good for consumers, and now we’re realizing this is in the improvements Facebook is issuing. The site clearly has a commanding lead over any and all social networks, but we’re happy a little rivalry is enough to make a better user product.