I didn’t get a Facebook account until last year.
Now, this wasn’t because I didn’t understand its purpose — quite the opposite — it was because I did.
As much as I tried to resist hopping onto the service, I knew it was inevitable. I knew as soon as I signed up, that was it, I was in the network for good. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook per say, but I do understand its significance. If the Internet is the information superhighway, Facebook is the yellow line in the middle of the road. It wasn’t there when the road was built, but eventually, it will be everywhere. The highway that is slowly but surely making its way into every home will bring that yellow line with it.
Of the roughly two billion people that use the Internet, 845 million of them are on Facebook. 483 million of those people use Facebook everyday. Nearly half of all Internet users are on Facebook. Nearly a fourth use it every day. If that doesn’t astonish you, you’re dead inside. These numbers are why I believe Facebook is the General Electric of the 21st century.
There is a very high chance that if you live in the U.S., you directly or indirectly use a GE product every day. From gas lines and water heaters, to light bulbs and washer & dryers, to NBC (yes, they still own 49 percent of them) and airplane turbines, it’s almost impossible to not come in contact with GE on a daily basis in the United States. And if you live outside the country, don’t fret — with GE Transportation and GE Healthcare, there is a high possibility that you also came in contact with the conglomerate very often (in fact, GE makes more money internationally, than in the U.S.).
GE built their business building every essential product that you need, and selling it cheaper than the competition — a shrewd strategy that has made them billions, and lasted has over 120 years.
Facebook — instead of building the every essential product that you would ever need — has built the house, and invited you, your family, and everyone that you have ever met, worked, or went to school with, to come over and hang out with them. Forever.
You see, this house is big enough for everyone, and the power never goes off (at least not yet). The house isn’t too complicated; it’s simple enough that even your grandparents could navigate it (after a two-hour phone call). But the biggest achievement of the house, is bringing families together, no matter the physical distance between them. No other service in the history of the Internet has done this as well as Facebook (not even email, to this extent).
By building the house, the product doesn’t need to be changed, renewed, or refreshed . You are the product. Your friends are the product. Your family is the product. The product is always changing, being renewed and refreshed (this, of course doesn’t mean the house won’t need a fresh coat of paint, or to be remodeled at some point). Just as it was nearly impossible to avoid GE in the 20th century, it will be the same for Facebook in the 21st.
Facebook will most likely top 1 billion users this year. This number will be hit with minimal impact in China, a country with over 450 million Internet users. What Facebook has accomplished is nothing short of amazing. There will be bumps in the road ahead (most likely surrounding all the information they have on everyone), but unless something goes horribly wrong, they should be just fine.
The closest thing to General Electric, in terms of longevity for an Internet company would be Microsoft and Apple, with over 30 years behind them. These companies have made it through their respective trials, and have both come out better for it. They have proven their worth, redefining themselves over the years, and have each, at their own time, been the most valuable company on the planet. There are no signs that these two will go anywhere anytime soon.
This is Facebook’s competition. The bar has been set.
So the big question is, can Facebook make it to 30? I wouldn’t bet against it.