Is Facebook the new Internet Explorer?
A funny question, really. Obviously Facebook isn’t a browser. Nor is Internet Explorer a social media site. But they’re both ubiquitous, ungainly, and losing favor with users all around the world.
A spunky browser with all kinds of potential
Internet Explorer was released in August 1995 as an add-on to Windows ’95. Even after “superior” browsers (some might say) like Safari, Firefox, and Chrome were released, many still use IE and most developers still code for it. Perhaps it’s because people just don’t like to change or simply because it’s packaged with all PCs.
Say what you want, it’s still there and people still swear by it (see my former boss and all of Korea). In fact, you’ll be amazed when you check out this infograph of Countries by most used web browser. As of December 2012, Internet Explorer used to be a big deal. Used to.
IE had releases fairly consistently at first. Their initial offerings were generally cutting edge for the time. They worked hard to make sure their browser used new technology, were patched regularly, and they consistently beat out other browsers around the world. That is, until they kind of stopped giving a crap around IE 6.
Social media and data collection, a love story
Facebook was launched in February 2004 to select colleges and opened its doors to anyone 13 or older with a valid email address in September 2006. It too was a revelation. People jumped the Myspace and Friendster ships and signed up en masse leading us to today where Facebook has over 1 billion users around the world.
That’s an incredible amount of users in less than a decade. It would be safe to say that Facebook is the omnipresent social media site across the globe.
Facebook’s initial business model was focused on social media. They connected people and allowed for the sharing of photos and for my ex’s to stalk me more easily (and vice versa). It once had a fairly neutral persona. But then they monetized. And then they took their company public. Now people are seriously questioning their motives.
The tortoise, the hare and IE7
When Mozilla Firefox was first launched for PCs, many programmers and developers jumped ship from IE. Mozilla was open-source and free to mess with. And best of all, its 2001 0.9.5 update offered the ability to use tabs while browsing. But it took years before everyone else caught on to this massive shift in browser interface.
Microsoft eventually responded to the tabbed browsing innovation with Internet Explorer 7… in 2006. And when they announced the release, they bragged that they made this “huge innovation” with something called “tabbed browsing,” Now we’re onto IE 10, and not much has really changed. People still use it, but for how much longer?
Internet Explorer may have shot ahead of the rest in the beginning, but Microsoft seemed content to rest on its laurels while other browsers slowly and steadily moved ahead.
And like IE, Facebook took off in the beginning of the social media gold rush, but how long until the (data)mine runs dry?
Sit back, relax, and gather intel
Facebook hasn’t changed much in the last two years.
Facebook's critics have pointed to an ever-widening net cast by the company in an effort to gather as much information about their users as possible in those years. The goal is to monetize their users in any way possible.
Whether you agree with the detractors or not, Facebook hasn’t made any truly innovative updates in the social media sphere in ages. Facebook has become a data-mining site, pure and simple. How long will it be able to gather data when it offers nothing of value to its users?
Sure, Zuckerberg recently announced Graph, its social search function to little fanfare, and much speculation that it would simply further its data-mining prerogative. Some fear Graph will be used inappropriately, but most seem to think it’s shrug-worthy.
Internet Explorer and Facebook: everyone uses them. Or at least they used to.