Three great liabilities have long threatened Facebook’s dominance from within. The first is the fact that social networks are free, requiring them to pay the bills by selling advertising that’s based on targeted user data, which typically creeps out most users. The second is Facebook’s relentless insistence on changing up its interface on a regular basis, gambling that users will find the new changes more intuitive without accounting for the fact that users are forced to keep re-learning how to use the interface and are forever hunting for the new buried locations of lesser used features.
The third is that Facebook has been slow to move its desktop features onto its mobile apps, something it’s gotten significantly better at over the past two years but is still unwilling to commit to due to the higher advertising revenue available from desktop usage. Limiting some higher level features to the desktop ensures users will return to it at least occasionally, boosting revenues – but also ensures that users will be annoyed and resentful when they’re forced to do so. The ACSI survey suggests that Facebook users are increasingly disenchanted with such foibles.
However, its primary competitors have only been able to carve out niches such as celebrities (Twitter), geeks (Google+), visuals (Pinterest), and so on. The prospect of luring away a large chunk of Facebook’s core user base would require more or less stealing them all on the same day, so they’ll feel safe about finding familiar faces on the new network. And that can only happen if Facebook does something that’s such a turnoff that users decide to flee en masse simultaneously.
This new data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index says we might be closer to such a scenario than previously thought. But again, that can’t happen unless Facebook participates in such a mass exodus by giving users a sudden and overwhelming reason pack up and head for greener social network pastures.