Tech Talk: Facebook Celebrates its 10th BirthdayIBTimes UK

Gartner analyst Brian Blau admits he is surprised Facebook has reached its 10th birthday in such good shape, but now believes the company is too big to fail - even if a better social network arrives on the scene.

"It's surprising," Blau tells IBTimes UK. "Facebook had a rough start, they had a lot of bumps on the way and there were a lot of predictions of it not being able to survive, or that another company would do to them what they did to MySpace, but so far that hasn't been the case."

Too big to fail

Amassing more than a billion members in 10 years - half of which log on every day - is no mean feat, and while the 'network effect' which helped the site's membership grow so rapidly could potentially cause users to leave for a rival network just as fast, Blau believes Facebook is now immune to failure in such a way.

"Network effect certainly can work in the opposite direction and there's nothing stopping a company from inventing new products and doing exactly the same [more successfully than a rival] - but I'll say for social networking that time may have passed. I don't know if it's going to happen to Facebook."

And even if a new social network were to usurp Facebook and attract more members, Mark Zuckerberg's company would still survive and even thrive, Blau claims. "Social profiles may be up for grabs at some point down the road, but Facebook may have moved on past that.

The Facebook of 2024

"Facebook of 2024 will be different. We can look at its competitors to see what Facebook is going to do - look at Google and Amazon. Both of those companies really have a keen ability to expand horizontally, to expand into complementary businesses and build on top of or add value in addition to their core offering."

Looking at Facebook, Blau says the company has proved it already wants to be several different types of social network - with its purchase of Instagram and alleged offer for Snapchat.

"The evidence is they're not afraid to socialise with their customers in different ways."

But going even further than that, and moving away from social networking almost entirely, Blau predicts a future Facebook which "may offer enterprise services [and] get involved directly in [financial] transactions. They've certainly had some experiments there and I think they'll embrace e-commerce more in the future. You'll be sending your credit card to Facebook if you haven't done already."

Whichever new path Facebook takes, you can be sure of one thing - it will continue to collect more and more personal data from its users. But this data will be different to what we have already given it, Blau says. "Maybe data that's coming from wearable devices, or environmental type data. I do think it will try to offer some of those types of services in the future."

Charging - possible, but somewhat distasteful

Finally, Blau addressed the possibility of Facebook ever charging its users for access, the topic of many fast-spreading internet hoaxes in recent years. "It's very possible," Blau says at first, but later accepts that such a move would be "somewhat distasteful for users, because they've had free access for a long time."

Whatever Facebook and Zuckerberg have in store for the next 10 years, we can be sure it will continue to impact the daily lives of a significant portion of the global population - a figure that will no doubt rise as the CEO's initiative brings web access to developing countries.

This may have echos of Bill Gates' philanthropy, but as Blau says, "it's kind of noble, but these folks are in business and eventually they'll be able to count these newly-online people as customers."